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Full text of "Omni Magazine (May 1991)"

lg 02484 


MAY 1991 



VOL.13 NO. 8 








First Word 

By Admiral James Watkins 

No single 

strategy can answer 


present and future energy 

needs, but 

past decisions iimit 

access to 

many energy options. So 

says the U.S. 

secretary of energy, 

who argues 

that Bush's strategy will 

provide for an 
energy future that is both 

and economically sound. 



By Beth Howard 

Osage, Iowa, boasts clean 

" streets, freshly 

painted houses, lots of 

shady maple 

trees — and one of the 


top energy conservation 




The Who's Who 
of contributing authors 


The light bulb looms above the 

metropolis, a symbol of inspiration as well as energy. 

With acrylic and oils, artist Paul Lehr 

reminds us that to maintain an energy-hungry civilization, 

we must constantly seek the light 

of inspiration. This issue is designed to shed some light, 

and with luck insight, on the topic 

of energy. (Additional art and photo credits, page 98) 


By Ed Begley, Jr. 

The powerful 

conversion of an actor 

who practices 

the energy conservation 
he preaches. 



A farmer's life: Plowing 

the fields, 
harvesting the crops, 

checking the 
rise and fall of grain 

options on the 
home computer; the 

benefits of 
botulism; New Jersey, 

the astronomy 
state; microorganisms 

are eating our 
highways; and more. 


Perpetual Power 

By Tom Dworetzky 

Will renewable sources 

power" society 

in the future? While 

weaning the 
world away from oil 

will be a long, 
tough process, some 

have been paving the 

way for 
cheaper, cleaner, saner 

OVNIil'-S'-JlT-l'i. . Ill :■ I ■! I I in. i I !■.'!■ i "l.: i I'll ■! 

way New York, lr I'..': ■■.:,'».■. ■ . ■ . i i. . 

Send adciress chsr.rjos lo Oniri Magazine, ~ 
""91 byOmniPubliCs" 



Good to the Last Drop 

By Phil Scott 
A lot of the world's oil 

is playing hard 
to get. To capture the 

elusive elixir, 

fuel companies are 

boiling oily 

rocks and returning to 

wells thought 
to be pumped dry to 

slurp up 
the last few ounces. 

The Omni Energy 
Efficiency Guide 

By Shari Rudavsky 

Want to 

conserve energy, but not 

sure how? Just 

follow our very simple, 

practical tips on 

how you can save power 

at home, at 

work, and on the road. 

Alternative Sources: 
A Status Report 

Ben Barber, Steve Nadis, 

Dana Points, 
Beth Livermore, Steven 

Scott Smith, 

and Mary McDonnell 

look at the rivals 

of oil. Solar and nuclear 

power are still in 

the running, but they are 

getting some stiff 

competition from cow 

manure and the 
earth's steamy interior. 

t mi *** 


Pictorial: Art for a Brave 
New World 

By Robert K.J, Killheffer 

Like Rodney 

Dangerlield, computer art 

gets no respect, 

Artist Barbara Nessim 

hopes that she 

can redeem the field with 

a brand-new 

exhibit that shows off 

its brightest side. 


By Kathleen Stein 

In 1957 
Vernon Mountcastle 

discovered how 

the cerebral cortex is 


Today he still delves deep 

into the brain 

to find the link between 

the organ's 
structure and perception. 



Was the alleged alien 
landing in New 

Mexico in 1947 really 

just a lot of 

hot air?; flu-causing 


bagging Bigfoot; and more. 


Video Games 

By Bob Lindstrom 

The only thing 

John Madden Football is 

missing is the 

touchdown dance. Also, 

players can 

tackle aliens in Battle 

nasty dolls in Mendel 

Palace, and an 
entire city in Rampage. 


By Scot Morris 

What's in a word? 


palindromes, unusual 

records, and fun. 

Star Tech 

Techno-toys of tomorrow 


Last Word 

By Darryl Henriques 

Forget saving 

the earth. It's just going 

to be paved 
over anyway. Here're a 

few suggestions 

for hastening the earth's 


fate as the universe's 

parking lot. 

Fiction: A Kiss, a Wink, a Grassy Knoll 

By Jack Womack 

Edgar and Natalie fall in love while editing the Zapruder 

film of John Kennedy's assassination for a music 

video'. As tension builds between the couple and 

Natalie's husband, Edgar comes to a startling 

conclusion about what happened that day in Dallas. 



If we are to succeed, we must learn from the past and 

forge realistic approaches that will work 

James Watkins 
is secretary 
of the U.S. Depart- 
ment of Energy. 

In calling for his secretary to 
read him history, Frederick the 
Great would command, "Bring 
me my liar." Such aversion to see- 
ing the truth in history is charac- 
teristic oi many of the more vocal 
groups concerned with energy pol- 
icy today. These groups seem to 
have little interest in reflecting on 
relevant history and learning 
from past experiences. But if we 
are to succeed, we must learn 
from the past and forge realistic 
policy approaches that will work 
in our democratic society. 

With the recent release of the 
President's Naiional Energy Strat- 
egy, the debate over energy pol- 
icy has begun in earnest. Already 
the voices of the past are coming 
back to haunt us, proclaiming 
that there is only one way to af- 
fect American energy consump- 
tion; government edict. The voic- 
es call for taxes, mandates, regula- 
tions, and controls, all designed 
to make Americans do what gov- 
ernment thinks is good. Yet his- 
tory argues otherwise. The price 
control and allocation schemes 
of the Seventies and the supply 
shortages they induced are not 
among the shining moments of en- 
ergy policy history. 

President Bush directed the De- 
partment of Energy to take a dif- 
ferent approach. Rather than in- 

tervene in the free market, we've 
devised a strategy to harness the 
market's strength. Rather than 
choose between energy goals 
and environmental objectives, we 
have sought to balance them. Rath- 
er than more regulation, we are 
seeking more competition in ev- 
ery energy sector, thereby increas- 
ing fuel choices and reducing con- 
sumer costs. Rather than demand 
that Americans change their life- 
styles and make do with less, we 
are advancing the technologies 
that will lead us into the kind of en- 
ergy future we want: more envi- 
ronmentally benign, with the eco- 
nomic growth necessary to main- 
tain and enhance the American 
standard of living. 

In developing this new energy 
policy, we reached out to the Amer- 
ican public. Over some eighteen 
months we heard from 400 wit- 
nesses in eighteen separate hear- 
ings. We studied some 22,000 
pages of testimony in a compre- 
hensive effort to understand how 
Americans think our future ener- 
gy needs should be met. Some 
called for conservation; some 
called for greater energy efficien- 
cy; others called tor alternative 
fuels, advanced transportation 
technologies, and greater use of 
renewable fuel sources. Each 
group was and continues to be 
sure that its answer is the one "sil- 
ver bullet" that will meet all our 
energy challenges. 

They are wrong. None of these 
measures can single-handedly 
solve our complex energy prob- 
lems. We will need every one of 
these initiatives, and more, to 
meet our future energy needs. 

Past decisions have steadily 
eroded our energy choices. Our 
current energy system has been 
shaped by decades of laws and 
regulatory mandates without re- 
gard for their cumulative impact. 
Project by project, decision by de- 
cision, we have eliminated one en- 
ergy option after another and se- 
riously compromised our overall 

energy and economic security. 

Just consider: Frontier areas for 
oil and gas exploration in this coun- 
try are largely closed to develop- 
ers, Government at all levels has 
made decisions on nuclear pow- 
er that make it virtually impossible 
for this technology to serve the na- 
tion. Multiple demands on water 
use have led us to sacrifice our 
hydropower potential. And to as- 
suage local opposition, we have 
pushed the construction of need- 
ed new refineries overseas. 

By default, we have made im- 
ported oil the energy source of 
choice. It seems that no risk, how- 
ever minor, is acceptable. Yet iron- 
ically, by refusing to accept mini- 
mal risks associated with expand- 
ing and diversifying energy sup- 
plies, we create greater risks by 
increasing our vulnerability to for- 
eign oil producers. 

Many in the old school of ener- 
gy policy would like to institute 
command and control measures 
to reduce oil use and oil imports 
dramatically. There is no question 
that we must wean ourselves 
away from oil. But given oil's over- 
whelming importance to our econ- 
omy, we must move wisely. In or- 
der to move away from oil without 
causing serious economic dislo- 
cation, we must introduce market 
incentives to stimulate develop- 
ment and use of alternative fuels 
and advanced energy technolo- 
gies. Equally important, we must 
remove regulatory barriers that con- 
strain existing alternatives like hy- 
dropower and natural gas. Our 
goal is to maintain a healthy, re- 
sponsive free market so that all fu- 
els and technologies can contrib- 
ute to a growing U.S. economy. 

Our nation faces serious ener- 
gy challenges in the years ahead. 
We do not intend to compromise 
our future by repeating past mis- 
takes. We will heed the essdns oi 
history and build upon Sie foun- 
dation laid by the Nsro-a Ener- 
gy Strategy for ■?. : ea = : = :■:■- 
cure energy future DC 


Americans take an energy lesson from 

this farm belt community 

By making energy 

efficiency the 

town cry, Osage 

became an 

example for the 

whole country. 

Tidy homes bordered by 
maples line the streets of 
Osage in the northeast 
corner of Iowa. The farm belt 
town of 3,500 seems an unlikely 
place for a revolutionary. In his con- 
servative suit and dark-rimmed 
glasses, Osage's Wes Birdsall 
doesn't look much like one either. 
Indeed, the businessman heads 
the type of institution revolution- 
aries generally love to target — 
the local utility company. But 
Birdsall has succeeded in making 
Osage the nation's model for en- 
ergy conservation. 

Birdsall's vision of a radically dif- 
ferent Osage dates back to 1974, 
a year after OPEC raised its oil pric- 
es and townspeople waited in 
line to buy gas. Osage Municipal 
Utility had just installed a new gen- 
erating plant to handle the town's 
increasing power load. Raising 
rates was the logical next step. 

Most utility managers would con- 
sider the prospect of increased 
rates good news. Birdsall, howev- 
er, knew they would only com- 
pound the beleaguered 
community's recession 
. In the "long run, 
reckoned, there 
better way to 
supply power to 

the town without plunging it into 
deeper debt. "If we could de- 
crease usage, we could make it 
to the year 2000, instead ot spend- 
ing miliions of dollars, say, in 
1983, for new energy generation," 
he says. "We would not only save 
money for the community, but we 
could delay the day when we'd 
have to have more power." Then 
Birdsall scoured the public library 
and made phone calls, tracking 
down information on efficiency. 

Finally launching Osage Munic- 
ipal's energy conservation pro- 
gram, he used infrared scanners 
to show residents where their 
homes were leaking heat. In 1975 
he set up new insulation specifi- 
cations. The utility gave away thou- 
sands of dollars worth of energy- 
saving devices, like water- heater 
jackets and low-flow shower 
heads, as well as shade trees 
from its nursery. It even bought 
the community a tree spade, 

At first the town sniffed at the 
programs and giveaways suspi- 
ciously. "It took two years to get 
them on our side," Birdsall says. 
"A lot of it was peer pressure: 'If 
So-and-so can save twenty-five 
percent, which it said in the pa- 
per last week, I can, too."' 

Conservation caught on. The 
Jaycees volunteered to caulk win- 
dows in low-income homes, and 
schools began replacing single- 
paned windows with efficient ther- 
mal windows, And teachers at the 
local high school began compet- 
ing to see who could achieve the 
lowest fuel bill at home. 

When Everett Steele rigged the 
refrigeration system at his Super 
Value Grocery so that waste heat 
warmed the store, he' found he 
was able to hold prices down; cus- 
tomers were less tempted to take 
their business to Mason City, 15 
miles away. 

Birdsall's doctrine — providing 
ways to keep customers from buy- 
ing what you're selling— was hard- 
ly what you'd team at the Harvard 
Business School. But Birdsall al- 

ways managed to keep an eye on 
the broader bottom line. As a 
town, Osage saves a staggering 
$1 million a year. 

Over the last decade, the utili- 
ty has done better than hold its 
costs steady, and thus the rates 
it charges consumers. It even re- 
duced rates by 19 percent. 

It's no wonder that industrial 
firms have discovered Osage. 
While towns and dreams are dy- 
ing around this corner of the corn 
belt, the "City of Maples" thrives, 
a magnet to new businesses. 
Birdsall extends energy-saving of- 
fers to them as well. "I get criti- 
cized on that one: 'Why would you 
ever reduce your industrial ac- 
counts? That's your bread and but- 
ter.' I'd much rather have an in- 
dustrial account that uses less en- 
ergy than have none at all." 

If Birdsall was a reluctant rev- 
olutionary, he doesn't mind being 
called a pioneer. Utility-spon- 
sored conservation programs 
have sprouted across the land — 
especially after the nation sent 
troops to the Persian Gulf. Sudden- 
ly everybody's concerned about 
the nation's oil fix. "If a program 
like Wes started was in every com- 
munity, our energy consumption 
would definitely drop," says Bill 
Bollinger, Osage's director of pub- 
lic works. 

Indeed, if more towns and cit- 
ies followed Osage's lead, we 
might not even need Gulf oil. it's 
time for all of us to take a hard 
look at the way we use energy. 

But it's going to take some con- 
vincing — and conserving. Some 
people just don't get it. Birdsall 
says, "Somebody recently told 
me, 'No wonder you have such a 
good program going. Look 
around Osage. It's a beautiful city. 
You've got community pride. All 
the homes are painted. New ga- 
rages, roofs, and so on.' I said, 
'You missed the point. Osage 
looks this way because people 
now have the money for it.'" 

—Beth Howard OQ 



Our efficient writers go to their sources and get 

the latest dirt on clean energy 


clockwise from 


Jack Womack, 

Tom Dworetzky, 

Phil Scott, 

Shari Rudavsky. 

Fueling the future is one of 
the great challenges of 
the twenty-first century. 
Coordinating this month's special 
issue on energy has been one of 
Omni environment editor Beth 
Howard's biggest efforts since join- 
ing the Omni staff more than a 
year and a half ago. Howard (Fo- 
rum, page 12) assembled a team 
of energetic reporters to pull to- 
gether data on new technologies 
designed to drain Earth of every 
drop of oil, and to find ideas for 
a sane energy strategy for Amer- 
ica and the world in the Nineties 
and beyond. She dispatched an- 
other crew to determine what's 
happening with the development 
of Earth-friendly renewable alter- 
natives to fossil fuels. 

Solutions that don't destroy our 
environment and won't break our 
budgets are realistic and attain- 
able, our writers report. 'There are 
answers that won't require our fight- 
ing a war to protect our foreign 
sources of fuel supplies," says Om- 
ni contributing editor Tom Dworet- 
zky ("Perpetual Power," page 34). 
"The technology is already here. 
All we need now are enlightened 
leadership and the will of the peo- 
ple to wean ourselves off import- 
ed oil." Energy revolutionary Amo- 
ry Lovins, for one, struck him as 
a man with a mission: to apply com- 
mon sense and the bottom line — 
economics — to energy. 

Ten years ago, oil gave 
Omni managing editor Phil 
Scott a lot of practice work- 
ing in the dark: He ran an oil 
rig, diagnosing problems 
that happened 1 ,000 feet be- 
low the surface of his native 
Kansas. "All I really wanted to 
do was get home by five," he 
says, recalling how if felt to be 
covered in crude oil. "Even af- 
ter you showered, you'd sweat the 
stuff through your pores." This 
year he clicked his heels and re- 
turned to Kansas to begin re- 
searching "Good to the 
Last Drop" (page 40). ,*.- — 

Fossil fuels, however, may not 
be the energy of choice in the fu- 
ture. In "Alternative Sources: A Sta- 
tus Report" (page 50), Steve Na- 
dis, Ben Barber, Steven Scott 
Smith, Mary McDonnell, Dana 
Points, and Beth Livermore report 
on some other means of power- 
ing our society. 

Nadis is the author of books on 
solar energy, nuclear power, and 
the arms race. Writing for The 
New York Times and United 
Press International, Barber has 
traveled throughout the Third 
World, where agricultural waste 
and other biomass materials 
have been used for centuries. 
Health staff writer Beth Livermore 
recently completed a fellowship 
at Woods Hole Oceanographic 

Steven Scott Smith has written 
the play Black ice and is working 
on another titled Antarctica. Mary 
McDonnell is managing editor of 
Flying, And Dana Points is an 
assistant editor at Family Circle. 

Reflecting on his personal com- 
mitment to energy efficiency in 
this month's Earth column (page 
22), Ed Begley, Jr., is a board mem- 
ber of the Environmental Leader- 
ship Forum, the Earth Communi- 
cation Office, Caiifornians Against 
Waste, and other environmental 
organizations. The television se- 
ries St. Elsewhere and the recent 
film Meet the Applegates featured 
Begley's other talents. 

Contributing editor Shari Rudav- 
sky is currently a graduate stu- 
dent at the University of Pennsyl- 
vania but still found the time to as- 
semble "The Omni Energy Efficien- 
cy Guide" (page 44). A thorough 
researcher, she gathered more in- 
formation than anyone could ev- 
er digest at one sitting. 

"Stacks, I mean stacks, were 
spread all over my bedroom," she 
says. "I slid across the floor ev- 
ery morning." And what did she 
learn? "I wish I had a house so 
that I could make it energy effi- 
cient. But I am thinking of buying 
a car and I'll be sure to fill it with 
at least 2.7 people." 

We can never get enough brain- 
power, especially from thinkers 
like neurophysiologist Vernon 
Mountcastle, the subject of this 
month's Interview (page 62). 
From the moment she first heard 
Mountcastle speak three years 
ago, Omni staff writer Kathleen 
Stein wanted to interview Mount- 
castle for Omni. "He was at the 
top of my most wanted list," she 
says. "He represents the epitome 
of what science is all about, and 
I will continue to track this ultimate 
scientific detective." 

Science-fiction author Jack 
Womack ("A Kiss, a Wink, a 
Grassy Knoll," page 66) is mak- 
ing tracks of his own with Heath- 
erns (Tor, 1 990) and two other nov- 
els, His story "Lifeblood" will 
appear in A Whisper of 
Blood (Morrow), an anthol- 
ogy of vampirism tales ed- 
ited by Omn/ficfion edi- 
tor Ellen Datiow. DO 

■ ■'■■■ ■ -^'"^s 

;.-. . KATHVKEF 



No more censors, no more "books, no more 

prices of electric cars mistook 

The Art of Censorship 

It's ironic that Arthur Miller [First Word, 
February 1991] chides congressional 
condemnation of certain art while he re- 
fers to whole areas as "non-governmen- 
tally funded mass junk." I assume that 
Miller feels his tastes provide not only 
the first word but the final word on ar- 
tistic value. The only sure way to elimi- 
nate political censorship is for the gov- 
ernment to assume a nands-off policy 
and do away with the NEA. Artists 
could then rely solely on the private sec- 
tor, where they don't seem to have this 
controversy. That would be a shame, 
since the NEA, by Miller's own count, 
has had only three or four controversial 
calls oui of 85,000 endowments. 

Harold Nickel 
Flemington, NJ 

The problem is not that government is 
censoring art; the problem is that gov- 
ernment cannot help but censor art 
when it uses our money to support it. If 
you wish to get rid of censorship, as I 
do, then you must get rid of government 
support for the arts. If artists are good 
enough, the public will support them. 
Look at movies, television, radio, even 
comic books. Let art be -like the cable 
companies, and anyone who doesn't 
like it can do the democratic, individu- 
al, American thing — switch it off. 

Keith Russell 
Garland, TX 

Teaching Principals 

As Keith Ferrell implies [Forum, Febru- 
ary 1991], unless new teaching and 
testing methods are developed, test 
scores and interest in science will con- 
tinue to decline. Administrators should 
allow teachers to teach. Textbooks 
should be used more as guides and 
less like scripts. Implementing new 
ideas will be difficult, but getting admin- 
istrators to listen to new ideas will be 
even more difficult. 

Charles Schlaudraff 
Matteson, IL 

Less Dollars, More Sense 
' A lot of what Bruce Ames [Interview, 
February 1991] says makes sense. I 
must, howevdV, quibble with one remark 

outside his field of expertise. Ames 
says, "You can build cars that don't put 
out any pollution. But it would cost an 
enormous amount." Our company, Elec- 
tro Automotive, has been selling com- 
ponents to convert gas cars to electric- 
ity for more than ten years. The cost of 
a complete conversion is approximate- 
ly $5,500, with operating and mainte- 
nance costs only 36 percent of those 
for a gas car. The conversion can 
reach freeway speeds and travel an av- 
erage of 60 miles on a charge, making 
it ideal as a second in-town car. Even 
accounting for the pollution caused 
by the electrical generating plant, the 
electric car is 97 percent cleaner than 
a gas car. Does this sound like an 
enormous cost? 

Shah Prange 

Customer Service Administrator 

Felton, CA 

Getting More From Nothing 

I was starting to wonder if mainstream 
science was ever going to pick up on 
the promising area of zero-point ener- 
gy ["Volatile Vacuum," February 1991]. 
One needn't travel to Russia to find en- 
ergy anomalies, t fellow readers are in- 
terested in pursuing this subject further. 
I suggest they pick up a copy of Mo- 
ray B. King's book Tapping the Zero- 
Point Energy (Paraclete Publishing, Box 
859, Provo, UT 84603). You don't need 
a multimillion-dollar research lab to 
achieve results, and the amateur scien- 
tist need not be left out of the fun. 

Jason P. Wentzell 
Manchester, CT 

Information, Please 
I am a member of an amateur short- 
wave radio club in the Soviet Union. 
Through our station, UL8PXW, [physi- 
cally challenged] people can find em- 
ployment and learn radio technology. 
We would like to know about similar 
associations in the United States for 
handicapped people. 

A. Agemuhametov 

City of Karaganda 

Association for the Handicapped 

Box 112, Karaganda 470055 

Kazakh SSR 




One person can make a difference, suggests" 

this energy-saving celebrity 

^Wfequick stroll through any 
#j^»bookstore offers you a 
m m choice of dozens of 
books on 50, possibly even 150, 
ways that you can save old terra 
firma. Spend a moment in the near- 
by video haven and you'll find a 
similar choice of electronic fare. 

Armed with this vast amount of 
knowledge, you'd think that we'd 
already see a huge change in peo- 
ple's life-styles. Certainly the Alas- 
kan oil spill got everyone's atten- 
tion. And the war in the Middle 
East always gets me thinking 
about our failed energy policy. 
Surely the devastating spill in the 
Persian Gulf would lead some to 
consider a reduction in their con-' 
sumption of oil. After all, it is just 
another drug war, isn't it? The 
drug is petroleum, but we've all 
been strung out on it for years. 

After all the talk of blood for oil, 
the endless speculation about the 
ozone hole, global warming, and 
dozens of other doomsday sce- 
narios^ people can no longer ig- 
nore the problems. Yet according 
to nearly every study, very few peo- 
ple are making any major chang- 
es in their lives. Accepting this 
fact, what are we to think? That 

people don't care what kind of 
world their children will be left? 
That there's nothing that can be 
done? We're mere pawns of gov- 
ernment or corporate America 
(pick your villain) and all we can 
do is shrug our shoulders, look 
briefly skyward, and utter our man- 
tra, "Hey, whatyagonnado?" 

The answer is plenty. Here's 
how I've all but eliminated my de- 
pendence on oil. 

Let's start with transportation — 
the big one. You don't have to get 
rid of your cars as I've done, but 
you can easily limit your use of the 
beloved automobile. Consider the 
bicycle. Obviously not a good 
choice for picking up the kids 
from school, but it sure works for 
the trip to the video haven or the 
half-mile jaunt for a loaf of bread 
and a quart of milk. 

Another big fuel saver is pub- 
lic transportation. I'm writing this 
piece aboard a train somewhere 
between Los Angeles and New 
York. Yes, I could have taken a 
plane, but it uses 50 percent 
more fuel per person. 

The name of the energy-saving 
game is reduction: Trains and bus- 
es still use fuel; they just use a 

Ed Begtey, Jr., 

shows how 

to make energy 

awareness a 

part of your life. 

hell of a lot less. The most daring 
additions to my transportation 
package, however, are my elec- 
tric vehicles (EVs). ' 

Though limited in range, they 
get me around town with ease 
and comfort. EVs are not only qui- 
et and low on maintenance but 95 
percent less polluting than cars 
that run on gasoline, Clearly 
there's a place for the EV today, 
but everyone seems comfortable 
viewing it as the car of the future, 
even though EVs have been 
around for years. 

There're also a lot of ways to re- 
duce energy use in your home, es- 
pecially with lighting. Insulation 
works, too. When I remodeled my 
home and opted for double- 
paned windows and two-by-six in- 
stead of two-by-four studs, l 
found it takes only a few minutes 
to heat or cool the entire structure. 
It will then maintain that tempera- 
ture all day. If you're a city dwell- 
er like me, the sound-abatement 
properties oi insulation are a bo- 
nus. Some well-planned insulation 
allows you to keep the noisy, chilly 
world at bay. 

The boldest of all the measures 
I've taken around the house sits 
atop my house and probably rep- 
resents the future in meeting a 
large portion of our energy de- 
mands. I have roughly 4,500 
watts of solar-electric panels on 
my roof. They provide power for 
my cars, my computer, and all but 
two or three of the appliances 
throughout the house. 

I've tried many ways of saving 
a watt here, a Btu there, and be- 
lieve me, they work. When facing 
the Mount Everest of environmen- 
tal ills that stand before us, it's 
easy to become overwhelmed — 
not only by the scope of the prob- 
lems, but by the myriad of solu- 
tions. Whether scaling the highest 
known peak, or tackling ecologi- 
cal dilemmas of equal magnitude, 
the approach is much the same: 
Put one foot in front of the other 
and take it a step at a time. DQ 



Savvy growers ply the trade routes. Also: Pachyderm patties, 

criminal impulses, and the toxic shock that heals 

Lightning struck a Delaware 
farmers telephone lines recent- 
ly, plunging his computer 
screen into darkness and cut- 
ting him off completely from 
his thrice-daily addiction to 
watching fluctuations in the. 
corn options and futures mar- 
ket. "The week it took to get 
that line repaired was terrible," 
the farmer said. 

A Lexington, Kentucky, 
corn and tobacco farmer sym- 
pathizes. He likes to keep 
tabs on options, too, but feels 
he's always 15 minutes behind 
the market. On a rainy morn- 
ing several weeks ago, as he 
chased down a heifer that had 
gotten into the corn, he had 
his wife check their home com- 
puter so he. could call a bro- 
ker from his pickup truck. "The 
cellular phone is great," he 
says, "but we could really use 
miniscreens so we can take 
'em with us to the fields and 
follow the markets while we're 
on the tractor." 

These growers, already 
hooked on using options and futures to hedge crop pric- 
es, represent only the. tiniest and most progressive sliver 
of American agriculture. So the Department of Agricul- 
ture and the Chicago Board of Trade are encouraging 
farmers to make greater use of the speculative markets. 

Buried deep within the 1 ,665 pages of the Senate ver- 
sion of the 1990 farm bill was a $39 million program that 
would train farmers to use options as a form of price in- 
surance. Participating farmers would be reimbursed by 
the USDA for the cost of their options and in return 
would give up their place in federal farm programs. The- 
oretically, the government would stop handing out farm 
foans and taking on surplus grain as collateral. This 
would eliminate the cost to the government of grain stor- 
age— $674 million in 1989 aione— and it would allow the 
USDA to stop paying farmers not to .grow or to keep their 
crops off the market to maintain artificially high prices. 
Options could also replace the hyoer expensive payments 
now being made to farmers that cover the difference be- 

tween market prices and 
USDA-determined targets. In 
1989 taxpayers shelled out 
$10,5 billion for the nation's 
farm programs; in 1990. $6.5 
billion. The USDA hopes that 
if farmers can be taught to use 
options to protect (heir crop 
prices, they'll eventually be 
weaned off federal price sup- 
port systems. 

Here's how the program 
works. An Iowa farmer brings 
his 20,000 bushels of corn in 
to a Cargill grain elevator. It's 
October and the market price 
for corn is $2.50, but the farm- 
er wants to get $2.80 per bush- 
el. He buys four July put op- 
tions (each contract covers 
5,000 bushels) with a $2.80 
strike price, paying Cargill, a 
commercial grain company in 
Des Moines, a 30 cents per 
bushel premium plus, a com- 
mission for writing the options. 
The federal government reim- 
burses the farmer for the pre- 
mium and commission. If the 
price of corn goes higher 
than $2.80, the farmer lets his option expire and sells his 
com on the open market. If it drops below the strike 
price, he can exercise the option and walk off happily 
with the S2.80 he wanted in the first place. 

Commercial c/ain companies that get into the business 
of writing options stand to gain not only from the increase 
in premium and brokerage business, but also from great- 
er access to what should be cheaper grain that the fed- 
eral government is no longer storing or subsidizing. The 
farmer, ideally, gets price protection as well as the pos- 
sibility of greater income potential if he decides to spec- 
ulate or trade in options. The Chicago Board of Trade 
gets a new market for agricultural options — the farmers — 
and a concomitant increase in the volume of business. 
As the prices of American farm products come down, 
their competitiveness abroad should increase, making 
everyone involved — from the Department of Agriculture 
to the 400-acre Delaware farmer — very, very happy. 



Conventional firep/oofi"g may limit cia:<\age in case of fire, but i! 
Americans an esUrnr,;?:-; $2 billion a year in repairs. 


Pressure-treated wood 
used in conventional fire- 
proofing contains chemicals 
with acid salts. These salts 
may limit fire damage, but at 
1 10° F (easily reached in any 
attic on a summer's day) 
acidic hydrolysis sets in, 
breaking down the cellulose 
structure of the wood. The 
result: roof rot, which the 
National Association of 
Homeowners estimates can 
cost Americans upwards of 
$2 billion a year to fix. 

The solution is an 
inorganic, ceramic-based 
laminate glued to wood like 
a veneer and acting as a 
barrier to flames. Pyrotite, 
manufactured, by Barrier 
Technology, Inc.; of Van- 
couver, British Columbia, fits 
the bill. According to Barrier 
president William Kolker, the 

26 OMNI 

product is 50 percent water, 
so when a fire breaks out, 
Pyrotite releases steam to 
retard the flames. And it 
protects wood from rotting 
in even the hottest attics. 

Kolker, who expects quick 
approval of his material 
from Building Officials and 
Code Administrators Inter- 
national in Chicago, has 
sold U.S. distribution rights 
to Weyerhaeuser, the Taco- 
ma wood products giant. 
Weyerhaeuser plans to 
rechristen the material 

— George Nobbe 


An unlikely miracle is at 
hand for thousands of 
Americans suffering from a 
broad array of involuntary 
muscle spasms, thanks to 
ine botu hum toxin, one of 

the most potent toxins 
known to mankind. 

The substance, produced 
by bacteria, is usually 
associated with botulism, 
food poisoning that results 
from improperly processed 
canned goods. Ingestion 
can cause paralysis, lead- 
ing to suffocation and death. 
However, when diluted to 
just one five-hundredth of a 
lethal dose, the botulinum 
toxin can have beneficial 
effects by selectively para- 
lyzing muscles that contract 

The Food and Drug 

Administration recently ap- 
proved the purified botulism 
agent, Oculinum, for treat- 
ing strabismus (an eye 
alignment problem) and 
spasms of the eyelids and 
face. A National Institutes of 
Health (MH) panel also 
endorsed the drug for 
treating dystonia, a host of 
muscle spasms that cause 
involuntary movements and 
abnormal postures. 

'The technique for deliv- 
ering the drug requires 
some artistry," says Roger 
Duvojsin, chairman of the 
NIH panel. "You don't want 
to paralyze people, just 
reduce the activity of an 
overactive muscle. That 
means getting the right 
amount of toxin to exactly 
the right place." 

— Steve Nad is 


When it comes to solv- 
ing the mystery of the mam- 
moth's extinction, paleon- 
tologist Larry Agenbroad is 
taking the crap out of what, 
until now, has largely been 
a crapshoot. 

Agenbroad was exploring 
Utah's Bechan Cave in 1983 
when he stepped in the first 
mammoth manure ever 
found in the Western 
Hemisphere. In the years 
since then, he and his 
colleagues at Northern " 






Arizona University have 
teased apart thousands of 
mammoth dung patties 
discovered in dry caves and 
in alcoves found in abun- 
dance across the entire 
Colorado Plateau. 

"For the first time, we've 
been able to approach the 
mammoth's extinction from 

^ f I 

the far side," says Agen- 

broad, whose radiocarbon 
test dates the oldest dung 
yet found in the United 
States to about 28,290 years 
ago and the youngest to 
11,670 years, (The mam- 
moths disappeared forever 
sori'ielimo around 11,000 
years ago.) 

By analyzing the dung's 

remarkably well-preserved 
contents, Agenbroad's 
team has gotten the inside 
poop on the region's 
Pcislccene environment. 
About 98 percent of the 
dung samples collected 
consist of grasses, sedges, 
and rushes. Today this 
floral assemblage can be 
found only at altitudes 4,000 
feet higher than its Ice Age 
range or at more northern 
latitudes, a striking indica- 
tion that the region's climate 
has become warmer and- 
drier since the Ice Age. 

Did the coming of the Ice 
Age — or the arrival of Ice 
Age hunters — doom the 
mammoths to extinction? So 
tar, Agenbroad says, the 
ex;: ie mental archives sup- 
port the "overkill" rather 


than the "overchill" theory. 
The pachyderms' mam- 
moth-size calling cards give 
no indication that their 
diet changed or that vege- 
tation quality measurably 
deteriorated as their apoca- 
lypse neared. But, Agen- 
broad says, "we're still 
trying to figure out whether 
plant nutrients declined." 

— Peter Tyson 


. . "-. The puzzle "Which 
came first, the chicken or 
the egg?" has special ■ 
significance for astrono- 
mers. But they might ask, 
"Which came first, the 
■galaxy or the cluster?" 
■ Congregations- Of billions 
of stars, galaxies often 
bunch together into large 
clusters, frequently com- ' 
posed of thousands/of 
ga axles. One theory hold's 
that galaxies form first and, 
lolbwing coMisicns. morg- 
'ers, and close encounters 
of. the gravhaiion-r k'n:;! 
form clusters. Another 
theory takes the opposite 
stance; A giant cloud of 
gas coalesces into clumps 

that in turn become c. jstcrs 
of galaxies. If observations 
of Abeil 2029, a cluster in. 
the Virgo constellation, -are 
any guide, clusters' come. 

Fiesearchers from- the 
Kitt Peak Observatory 
focused their telescopes oh 
■the Abell cluster and 
discovered that tight sur- ' 

..rounding the huge. galaxy 
at the duster's center is 
remarkably smooth: Since 
they were unable to detect ' 
signs of collisions,. they 
deduced that the cluster 
came first, with the galaxy ; 
following shortly after. 

But the debate contin- . 
ues. Says Jeffrey Kuhh, a 
Michigan State University 

' astronomer, "Other clusters 
m.ay have formed differently 
from Abell."— Steve Madis. 

■> Virgo t-:ons'0 ! i?Jion gsi- 



Got a skeleton in your 

■ closet? You may want to ■ 
consider selling it With a 
shortage'. of skeletons for 
medical research, a full 
skeleton that sold for $4Q0 
six years ago now goes for 
a hefty $2,000. 

For decades India was 
the world's main supplier 
of skeletons. However, In' 
August 1985 the Indian 
government banned the 
sales amid rumors of grave 
robbing. "I cannot confirm 
or deny these rumors," 
says Marshall Cordell. 
president of .the Anatomi- 
cal Chart Company in 
Skokie, Illinois. 

.Cordell says that his 
company, one of the chief' 
suppliers of skeletons in 
the United States, has had 
to purchase private collec- 
tions- to keep- up with the 
demand for bones. Mason- 
ic Lodges, which once 
used real skeletons in' their 
rituals, are one source, but 
a good relic is very hard to 
.find. Many, purchasers,, 
balking at the high cost of 
the real thing, buy 
. anatomically correct p!as : 
tic replicas instead for a:'' 

■ mere $300. 

—Peggy Noonan 


The perfect sterilant, 
cleaner, and surface etcher, 
acid has just one problem: It 
burns exposed skin and can 
destroy mucous-mem- 
branes in the eyes and 
nose. But an inventor in 
Denver has now sucoss-cGd 

in taking the sting out of 
acids while maintaining their 
industrial strengths. 

"Acid burns because its 
pH is so low it tends to react 
with anything and every- 
thing," inventor Silverio 
Garcia says, adding that low 
pH means a high number of 
free hydrogen ions. His 
process, however, blends 

strong and weak acids and 
then mixes them with water 
to create a hydrogen- 
overload solution. Blending 
Garcia's concoction with 
potent acids such as 
sulfuric, hydrochloric, and 
nitric acids "occupies" their 
free hydrogen ions. The 
resulting mix, he says, 
makes acids safe to handle 
and doesn't dilute their 
industrial applications. One 
chemical company's liability 
insurance has decreased by 
17 percent since the firm 
began using his product, 
called Chem-Shield. 

Studies are now under 
way to determine how, and 
if, Garcia's product actually 
enhances the effectiveness 
of certain acids. 

—Peggy Noonan 

FROM 3. 14159265... TO 



President Bush has 
called on the space 
community to colonize the 
moon by 2010, but where 
does he expect those moon 
settlers to live? Willy Sadeh 
be 1 eves he has the answer. 
Sadeh, director of Colora- 
do State University's Center 
for Engineering Infrastruc- 
ture and Sciences in Space, 
received a $300,000 grant 
from NASA and a list of 
requirements for designing 
moon houses: minimal 

labor iota: reliability, easy 
inspection, easy repair, 
minimum tools, and light 
weight. His solution: inflat- 
able homes, possibly made 
of composite fabric less 
than one tenth of an inch 
thick. The permanent instal- 
lations will provide a 
shirtsleeve environment for 
as many as four people; 
arger units can be made by 
linking the structures via 
an airlock. 

Sadeh's homes must be 
able to withstand 516° F 
temperature fluctuations be- 
tween the lunar day and the 
lunar night. But in some 
ways, building on the moon 
is easier than Earth-based 
construction. "The absence 
oi wsa;her on the moon," he 
says, "eliminates the need 
to compensate for wind, ice, 
snow, lightning, or earth- 
quakes." And with external 
pressure at nearly zero, the 
structures don't need tradi- 
tional walls to help hold 
them up. 

Sadeh says a prototype 
should be ready in about 
five years. — Peggy Noonan 

Space settler: Shopping for the 
perfect lunar home. 



A survey of 375 

undergraduates at George 
Washington University 
uncovered a curious fact: 
Shy people are highly 
susceptible to hay fever. 
Among the shyest students 
tested, one out of three 
suffered from hay fever; 
extroverted students never 
displayed the allergy. Scien- 
tists are struggling to find an 

If shyness were strictly 
psychological — that is, peo- 
ple become withdrawn 
because they have aller- 
gies—researchers would ex- 
pect to see a link between 
shyness and asthma be- 
cause some forms of 
asthma are triggered by 
psychological factors. Since 
they can't find such a link, it 
seems that shyness may 
have a physiological root. 

The olfactory system is a 
good bet, says Iris Bell, the 
University of Arizona psychi- 
atrist who directed the study. 

"The nose is an extension cf 
the brain," she says. Reac- 
tions to novel situations are 
thought to be centered in the 
limbic system, a part of the 
brain connected to the olfac- 
tory system. The same neu- 
ral wiring that makes people 
hyperreactive to novel social 
stimuli may also make their 
noses hyperreactive 
to physical stimuli. Bell ad- 
mits, however, that this theo- 
ry is mostly speculation. 
"We're far from understand- 
ing the chemistry of shy- 
ness," she says. 

— Steve Nftds 



Financially strapped 
New Jersey is considering 
a law to curb "light pol- 
lution," amove that wiil 
■save money and make 

Public lighting costs 
New Jersey taxpayers an 
estimated S50 million a 
year. Bill S-2608 would 
reduce the cost by three 

quarters. Low-pressure so- 
dium lights and shields 
would direct and focus 
light, and a better system 
of public lighting iimers 
would slash excess or 
misdirected light.. The plan 
will result in a darker sky 
for stargazers. 

''A light pollution study 
commission makes- 
enormous economic and 
environmental sense," New ■ 
Jersey state senator Dan 
Dalton says. "We need to 
cut our reliance on 
nonrenewable natural re- 
sources, " 

David Crawford, execu- 
tive director of the 
International Dark-Sky As- 
sociation (IDA), is also 
pleased. "The IDA looks 
forward to. the passage of 
the New Jersey bill as a 
.major step toward restor- 
ing the view of the universe 
to the people of the state 
and -establishing qusliSy 
lighting there," he says, "ft 
should serve as an 
excellent example to other 
states."— Fred Schaff 

e fever: Shy people seem to be more susceptible to alter- 


If you're a teenager with 
a low heart rate, dry hands, 
and a brain that generates 
little electrical activity, the 
police may want to reserve 
a jail cell for you. 

Many psychologists, in- 
cluding the University of 
Southern California's Adrian 
Raine, postulate that crimi- 
nals might be underaroused 
people who stimulate them- 
selves by breaking the law. 
Raine's ten-year study, 
initiated in 1978, measured 

three indicators of nervous 
system activity — heart rate, 
sweat rate, and brain 
electrical output — in 101 
British teenagers. 

In 1988, when Raine 
scoured Great Britain's 
computerized crime rec- 
ords, 75 percent of the 
predicted lawbreakers, all 
with low arousal rates, had 
established criminal rec- 
ords. Raine says his 
predictions may be even 
more accurate because 
official records list only 
outlaws who have been 
caught. — Billy Alls tetter 

30 OMNI 



The next time a doctor 
takes your temperature, 
he may stick the thermom- 
eter in your ear instead of 
the 1 usual orifice, if San 
Diego's Diatek, Inc., has 
its. way. The company's 
mercury-free thermometer 
can measure human body 
temperature in less than 

,.two seconds, it uses a tiny 
'"heat sensor just eight 
millimeters in diameter to 
gauge body heat generat- 
ed by the tympanic 
membrane, or eardrum, in 
the ear canal. A micro- 
processor inside the hand- 
held unit converts the 
sensor measurements into 
either Fahrenheit or Cel- 
sius readings on a liquid . 
crystal display screen. 

The ten-ounce thermome- 
ter, which can take' 
20,000 temperature read- 
ings on a single battery 
pack, is an improvement 
on glass thermometry 
technology, first devised in 
the 1700's and little 
changed since the Civil 
War, The Diatek Model 
7000 aural thermometer, 
retailing at about $550, is 
aimed at the international 
hospital market. 

— George Nobbe 


In a recent study bound 
to raise the hackles of 
feminists everywhere, psy- 
chologist Linda Carli at the 
College of the Holy Cross 
has shown that women who 
are tentative and uncertain 
in their use of language are 
more likely to influence men 
than women who are 
confident and assertive. 

Carli's experiments with 
more than 200 college-age 
students suggest that a 
woman vastly improves her 
chances of changing a 
man's mind or influencing a 
man's decision by using 
frequent disclaimers ("I'm 
not an expert but..."), tag 

32 OMNI 

questions ("It's raining here, 
don't you think?"), or 
hedges ("It's kind of raining, 
maybe...."). Assertive be- 
havior — such as sitting 
upright in a chair, maintain- 
ing eye contact, and talking 
in a calm, steady voice — '■ 
impairs a woman's persua- 
sive r ess. "Men view tenta- 
tive women as less compe- 
tent, but more trustworthy 
and likable," Carli says. 
"Men, in general, don't like 
assertiveness in women 
because it threatens their 
position of power." 
' The phenomenon, says 
Carii, probably has more to 
do with status than gender, 
and she's quick to point out 
the limitations of her own 
experiments. "I bet if you 

studied the interactions 
between female bosses and 
their subordinates, you 
wouldn't see tentative ness 
in the woman's behavior." 
—Steve Nad is 


Ever marvel at how 

quickly potholes and cracks 
apoesr in a newly paved 
road? Engineers may blame 
structural problems, but 
Mississippi State University 
microbiologist Lewis Brown 
lays the blame on common, 
ordinary soil bacteria. 

Brown explains that 
paving asphalt is only 5 
percent asphalt; the remain- 
der is a combination of sand 
and rock loaded with 
microorganisms. Bacteria 
grow in the material, 
"producing soaplike emulsi- 
fiers that strip gravel off 
asphalt," Brown says. 

The result? "The mixture 
eventually falls apart when 
cars and trucks roll over 
the road." 

The solution to this 
microscopic problem and its 
gigantic implications is the 


che-cai silane. "which 
binds with rock, repels 
water, and bonds asphalt to 
gravel," Brown says. "It 
doesn't kill the microbes but 
it prevents their emulsifiers 
from washing the asphalt off 
the gravel." 

In lab tests, soil microbes 
stripped pieces of asphalt- 
coated gravel in just ten 
days. But when the gravel 
was treated with silane, the 
two remained bonded even 
after 137 days. Adding 
silane would increase pav- 
ing asphalt's price by about 
25 to 50 cents per ton; 1 but, 
Brown says, "it's a small 
price for extending the life of 
highways ten times or 
more." — Sherry Baker 

c:-.:sr- :.:',■; ■r::C-OOCr- 

Challen&Tk Gods. 

Handcrafted in pure white 
bisque and rare black porcelain. 
Enriched with 24 karat gold. 

They were the ^6: of classical Gi ■<■<: cc and Koine. 
Now, (hey are re -c rented ill the ultimate soate.ey 
ilium: (■(?)(/ the most oiacoiliecia chess set ever. THE 
CHESS set Ol-' THE iiODS. Created hi master sculptor 
Smart M-irk Feldman fitch portrait sculpture en- 
hanced by 24 karat Mid liaiitiini;. Thirty-two pieces 
poised or a custom -de^iied imported pia.v>:i;i 
board of polished bonded marble— a special 
blend of powdered marble and resins. 

A masterwork of beaut;. 1 and cnursmLiiislin 
Priced at just S3". 50 for each piece, payable on a 
convenient monthly basis. It's your chance to chal- 
lenge the sods. ExciusiK'h hum The ir.tnklio Mm; 

:d-frannd(i chessboard with sti 
i';;idilitini]a] charge. Shcv.ii far. smaller than 
" ■mcAZVA'L. by21W"? 

: ii : niece- ahec siji:v.'i: slightly smaller than actual size. 
Please mail by May 31, 1991. 

The Mb Mini 

kuddi! Outer. Pennsylvania 19091 

Please enter my order tor THE CHESS SET Of THE 

lions, censi-iing df S- >L-uinELir..-J raying pieces in 

pure ivfiire bisque and rare black porcelain, ac- 

ccmed and banded in 2d karat gold. 

1 need send nu money now. 1 will tec^W MB 
imported playing pieces every other inonth and will 
be billed for just one piece at a time — S37.50* 
per month — beginning prior to my lira shipment, 
i'lii- cusium-c'esisiiiivi cbes-aii^ui ■-. ii sn.'iase e;;Se 
is mine at no additional charge. 

the future; Eco- 
nomical pew 
or will come In- 
from the sun, 
the earth's 
steaming inte- 
rior, the 
wind y and such 

biomass fuels 
as agricul- 
tural wastes 
and cattle ma- 
nure, among 
other sources. 
Clean nuclear 
power may be 
priced out of 

The institute's palatial atrium fea- 
tures a lush tropical garden 
decorated with a two-foot igua- 
na and a fertile banana plant. 
Thanks to passive solar technologies, 
the building exudes light and warmth — 
yet lacks a furnace or boiler of any 
kind. Saving energy doesn't mean hav- 
ing to say you're sorry, 

Bespectacled and benevolent look- 
ing, Amory Lovins appears more like 
ihe physicist he once was than an en- 
ergy maverick. But this stubborn advo- 
cate of renewable resources and the ef- 
ficient use of energy has proved one of 
the most persistent gadflies for the spe- 
cial oil, coal, and nuclear interests that 
have dominated the nation's approach 
to energy. "We must learn to make the 
best energy buys first," he argues, point- 
ing out that RMI's electric bill comes to 
a mere five dollars per month, "That 
means starting with efficiency measures 
to reduce the need for more production, 
and then moving away from large cen- 
tral power plants to smaller ones that 
make use of such renewable resourc- 
es as wind and sunlight, and highly ef- 
ficient gas turbines fueled with biomass 
like sugarcane and other crops." 

Such a shift, of course, would 
change the world. Peking man used 
fire as early as 400,000 B.C. From then 
on, burning carbon-based materials has 
been mankind's most basic technolo- 
gy. But today, as the world's burgeon- 
ing population escalates its energy use, 
fire's effects threaten our environment 
and increasingly rai;e serious econom- 
ic and security concerns. 

"Energy is not the goal per se," 
says John H. Gibbons, director of the 
Office of Technology Assessment. "Rath- 
er, energy policy derives from the broad- 
er and more fundamental national 
goals of environmental quality, econom- 
ic health, and national security. There- 
fore it only makes sense to develop a 
national energy strategy that does the 
best job of fulfilling these three goals." 
In other words, policymakers can fash- 
ion a rational approach to the energy 
crisis only by examining the options in ' 
light of each of the underlying issues. 

During the next 40 years, Gibbons, 
Lovins, and other experts urge, we 
must undertake a major transition away 
from carbon-based fuels and wasteful 
energy consumption practices. If we do 
not, we run the risk of using up the 


earth's capacity to absorb the destruc- 
tive by-products of burning. 

The other risk of ignoring their pleas 
is proclaimed in today's headlines: We 
went to war at least partially to secure 
the millions of barrels ol oil imported dai- 
ly from the Persian Gulf. But this didn't 
have to happen, Lovins says. As he put 
it in a New York Times editorial last De- 
cember, "Are we putting our kids in 
tanks because we didn't put Ihem in ef- 
ficient cars? Yes: We wouldn't have 
needed any oil from the Persian Gulf af- 
ter 1985 if we'd simply kept on saving 
oil at the rate we did from 1977 
through 1985." 

It's clear that alternatives to carbon- 
fuel-based power generation will be fill- 
ing the energy gap — but not because 
our traditional fuels are running low. 
Based on current recoverable reserves 
and consumption rates, the planet has 
nearly a century of oil left, maybe 200' 
years worth of coal, and 50 to 100 
years of natural gas. "The scarcity is- 
sue is really a red herring," Princeton 
energy analyst Robert Williams says. 
"However, these resources will become 
increasingly scarce vis-a-vis the secu- 
rity and environmental constraints." 

Security constraints mean that the fu- 
el you want belongs to someone else. 
While 80 percent of ihe world's coal is 
in the United States, the Soviet Union, 
and China, oil and natural gas reserves 
are predominantly in the Middle East. 

Historically, this distribution of resourc- 
es has had its price— in money and, all 
too often, in blood. At this time, the 
United States must make vast military 
expenditures to ensure oil supplies. The 
bill for the Gulf War has already topped 
S40 billion, in effect doubling the annu- 
al cost of this "cheap" Middle Eastern 
oil. As WorldWatch's Christopher Flav- 
in points out about the region's resourc- 
es, "Not only is the world addicted to 
cheap oil, but the largest drugstore is 
in a very dangerous neighborhood." 

War itself, of course, exacts an envi- 
ronmental toll. Ecological damage 
from history's largest oil slick, offshore 
from Kuwait, dwarfs the effects of such 
peacetime mishaps as the grounding of 
the Exxon Valdez. And no one would 
rush into a hot landing zone to engage 
in the tricky business of mopping up a 
spill or putting out an oil well fire. 

Even in peacetime the ecological im- 
pact of burning fossil fuel is bad news. 

C0 2 emissions account for about half 
the greenhouse effect and ozone de- 
pletion, as well as most acid rain and 
general urban smog. Air pollution is not 
only unpleasant but costly. The Ameri- 
can Lung Association, for example, es- 
timates that air pollution causes $40 bil- 
lion per year in lost productivity and oth- 
er health costs. Estimates of damage 
from acid rain on buildings, bridges, 
and forests easily double this price tag, 

Global warming, another effect of 
burning oil, can't be measured in dol- 
lars. Burning the remaining stores of oil, 
coal, and natural gas would result in a 
tenfold rise in the concentration of at- 
mospheric C0 2 , Flavin says. Seven of 
the last ten years were the hottest on 
record. Even without catastrophes 
from rising sea levels or melting polar 
ice caps, researchers predict climate 
changes that, within the next century, 
could well turn cropland to desert, 
flood populated coastlines, and cause 
major social and economic dislocations. 

Nor will holding to current per capi- 
ta consumption of these energy sourc- 
es offer a viable option. EPA scientists, 
for example, have estimated that glob- 
al carbon emissions will have to drop 
by 60 to 80 percent to stabilize the cli- 
mate. Combine that with the recent 
World Energy Conference's estimate 
that by the year 2020 the world's pop- 
ulation growth (from today's 5 billion peo- 
ple to 8 to 14 billion) will require a 75 
percent increase in energy use, and the 
scope of the power problem emerges. 

Fortunately, nonpolluting alternatives 
to fossil fuels exist. The primary contend- 
ers are nuclear energy and renewables, 
including wind, solar, and biomass. Tra- 
ditionally, the government has favored 
nuclear energy ever renewables. 

Through Department of Energy re- 
search and development funding, 
large tax subsidies, and legislative lim- 
its on liability from radiation accidents, 
nuclear power has enjoyed a huge ad- 
vantage over its more modest com- 
petitors. In the last 20 years, Lovins 
says, taxpayers have coughed up al- 
most $90 billion in 1991 dollars on nu- 
clear technology; the electric utility in- 
dustry has spent more than $125 billion. 

But this may have been an unwise in- 
vestment. According to Lovins, utilities 
have now written off more than $60 bil- 
lion on nuclear power plants. Beyond 
that, running nuclear plants costs at 















least $60 billion more than using coal 
power to generate the same amount of 
electricity. Altogether Lovins estimates 
that the damage totals more than $200 
billion — and that doesn't include the 
sums needed to decommission aging 
plants and clean up waste. "One can 
describe the state of the nuclear indus- 
try as the greatest collapse of any en- 
terprise in industrial, history," he says. 
"The nuclear industry has largely suc- 
ceeded in bankrupting its only possiole 
customers, the electric utilities." 

This condemnation doesn't come 
from an industry outsider, either. "Think- 
ing about that tragedy makes me feel 
that there but for the grace ol God go 
■ 1," Lovins says. "In my student days I 
received awards for nuclear physics 
from, among others, General Electric, 
the Atomic Energy Commission, and 
the American Nuclear Society." 

Proponents of this technology have 
correctly argued that it could address 
the environmental problems associated 
with fossil fuel: Nuclear power, after all, 
does not produce greenhouse gases. 
But it has oiher significant problems. "Nu- 
clear power, reincarnated in some small- 
er, passively safe, and economical 
form, may indeed come to the rescue, 
at least for the developed countries," 
says James MacKenzie, senior associ- 
ate for the World Resource Institute's Cli- 
rpate. Energy, and Pollution Program. 

"But we won't see this for at least twen- 
ty years. And nuclear energy is'inher- 
ently expensive, complicated, and un- 
suitable for most of the developing 
world. Saddam Hussein also awakened 
us to the threat of diverting nuclear ma- 
terials to weapons production." 

Renewable fuels and technologies, 
however, have no such economic or na- 
tional security drawbacks. Even without 
huge research dollars and tax subsi- 
dies, solar, wind, biomass, and olher re- 
newable industries have made great 
strides in the last decade. Moreover, ev- 
er more efficient devices have trickled 
onto the market. Were there no tax sub- 
sidies lor fossil and nuclear power, ex- 
isting solar and wind -gene rated electric- 
ity, to name jusl two sources, would al- 
ready prove cost competitive. 

The move toward renewables began 
with the 1978 Public Utility Regulatory 
Policies Act (PURPA), which forced util- 
ities to buy power from anyone who gen- 
erated it. Since then the percentage of 
electricity supplied by private produc- 
ers has jumped- limited more by restric- 
tions on what they could sell than by 
technical constraints. 

At first resistant to the idea, the utili- 
ties are reccgnizny iho bot'om line. Pow- 
er from solar and wind-generating fa- 
cilities is competitive with and in the 
near future will be cheaper than the 
same- electricity produced by tradition- 

al generating plants. The 1990 Clean 
Air Act should make renewable sourc- 
es even more economically attractive. 

Changing attitudes among state reg- 
ulators have also enhanced the climate 
for fuel alternatives. California, Oregon, 
and five New England states, among oth- 
ers, now encourage utilities to invest in 
the hidden "source" of energy: greater 
efficiency. In Oregon's "nega watts" pro- 
gram, for example, a utility company rep- 
resentative can sit down with a build- 
ing owner and work out a plan to in- 
crease energy efficiency by investing in 
less power-consuming lights, heating 
plants, and the like. The owner pays for 
the improvements over time through his 
regular utility bill. 

Such programs allow' utilities to 
charge for the watts they sell and for 
efficiency investments (the watts that 
they don't sell). The advantage: The util- 
ity doesn't have to make large capital 
investments in additional power plants 
to handle the increasing load. The risk: 
Future power consumption might de- 
cline, sticking the utility with unsellable 
surplus capacity. This is no idle fear. 
Just such a situation has pushed a num- 
ber of U.S. utility companies over or to 
the brink of bankruptcy. 

In large measure, such economic di- 
lemmas come from an important shift in 
the relationship between growth and en- 
ergy. Since the dawn of the Industrial 
Revolution, GNP and energy consump- 
tion have risen hand in hand. Howev- 
er, since the first oil shock in 1973 this 
trend has changed: GNP has risen as 
energy consumpt.on has fe.len. Advanc- 
es in energy efficiency are only part of 
the story. People are also manufactur- 
ing and consuming items with costs 
based less on the raw material and en- 
ergy required for their fabrication, and 
more on the labor or ingenuity involved 
in their production. Although comput- 
ers, for example, require a lot less raw 
matter and energy to make and use 
than refrigerators, they cost more. 

The solution to the energy crises, 
therefore, may well be one that comes 
from the bottom up. As the price of elec- 
tricity and gas inevitably rises, individ- 
uals will opt for more efficient energy 
use in the products they buy. With the 
increasing cost of environmental con- 
trols as well as big-ticket fossil and nu- 
clear power plants, the utilities will 
seek cheaper, smaller, and cleaner 
ways to provide energy — or go broke. 

Quite likely, long-term solutions io the 
energy crisis will involve a sweeping 
move away from the carbon-based fu- 
els that energized human development 
from prehistoric times to the industrial 
age. Amory Lovins and other energy rev- 
olutionaries env siur: a panorama of wind- 
mills on the Great Plains, solar cells in 
the desert producing electricity, and 
fields that turn crops into ethanol for our 
cars and turbine fuel for power. DO 

Even as tank treads flay the oil- 
rich sands nine time zones to 
the east, oilmen fighting on the 
home front in Liberal, Kansas, 
share a thermos of Folgers in- 
stant and discuss their own 
strategy for forcing Ihousands 
of barrels of crude oil out of a 
lease that began to dry up ten 
years ago. It's a tactic called 
water injection. 

"For oil recovery, it's nothing 
new," says Mark Rinehart. an 
engineer for Anadarko Petrole- 
um. "But our method of using 
purified sewage water is 
unique io the world." 

The earth holds an estimat- 
ed ultimate resource of 1.744 
trillion barrels of oil, and at our 
present consumption rate, 64 





million barrels per day— . 
enough to fill Lake Erie one 
and a half times— that new 
Camaro may sputter its last in 
about 75 years, according to 
unofficial U.S. Department of 
Energy estimates, That's the 
good news, The bad news; Six- 
ty-six percent of the proven re- 
serves lie in the Persian Gulf. 

With the United States im- 
porting half its oil and the rest 
getting more expensive to re- 
fine, we've reached the point 
where— like Mad Max— we're 
ready to fight for what's left. "If 
there wasn't oil in Kuwait and 
Saudi Arabia, we wouldn't be 
there," says former senator 
George McGovern, 

But while we pay in blood 
and money to keep our Carna- 
ros running on global oil, U.S. 
producers are steering off in 
new directions to retrieve hard- 
to-produce oil, and toward 
new production methods that 
sweep more oil from deposits 
they once thought drained. "A 
lot of American production to- 
day relies on finding small 
fields and producing them ef- 
ficiently — high-tech solutions," 
says Grant Lichtman, vice pres- 
ident of Jebco Seismic, an oil 
exploration firm. 

Advances in technology, for 
example, now allow producers 



to drill into deposits horizontal- 
ly, for more efficient, higher- 
producing wells. The horizon- 
tal well begins as a typical ver- 
tical well for the first few thou- 
sand feel, but directional gyros 
and computerized sensors in 
the drill bit allow the drill oper- 
ator to gradually angle the 
well's path 90" and toward the 
suitable coordinates. 

Tom Sullivan, a spokesman 
for Oryx Energy Company, an 
oil exploration and production 
firfn, compares it to playing 
mumblety-peg with your hand 
in a pool of oil and your eyes 
' "closed. Think of the knife 
blade as the drill. "Every time 
you hit your finger you're drill- 
ing a dry hole, and then you 

But the deeper iomoanies 
explore, the more chances 
they take with the-environment. 
"in three thousand feet of wa- 
ter you have that many more 
feet of water where something 
could go wrong," says energy 
specialist Rob Watson of the 
Natural Resources Defense . 
Council (NRDC), a national en- 
vironmental group. He points 
to the July 1980 explosion at 
the drilling platform Ixtoc, in the 
Gulf of Mexico. "An explosion 
of that type," he says, "at the 
point where the drill meets ihe 
ocean floor, would be more dif- 
ficult to avoid in deeper water." 

For tapping into landlocked, 
untouched U.S. oil reserves, a 
dwindling group of companies 









alii may not tap into all the ver- 
tical deposits of oil between 
your fingers," he says. "But if 
you slide the blade underneath 
your fingera, you can get at all 
the oil." It costs more, "but it 
doesn't cost as much as drill- 
ing dry wells in each finger," 
Sullivan says. 

Imagine, however, the bad 
blood arising if you punched 
into the oil on the lease of 
another. "You have io careful- 
ly outline [to regulatory agen- 
cies] where you're drilling and 
follow it to make sure you're not 
draining the guy next door," 
Sullivan aays. 

Petroleum companies are al- 
so going farther out to sea for 
oil. Shell Oil continues setting 
deep water drilling records in 
the Gulf of Mexico: The com- 
pany simultaneously built the 
world's deepest offshore plat- 
form and- its tallest structure 
(92 feet more than Chicago's 
Sears Tower) with its 1,615- 
foot Bullwinkle fixed platform. 
By 1993 Shell hopes to pump 
oil from its Auger platform, a 
floating platform held in water 
2,860 feet deep by vertical "ten- 
dons." And for a preview of 
deeper things to come, the 
company has recently drilled 
an exploration well in 7,520 
feet of water. 

4£ OMNI 

ing. Geologists estimate that 
portions of Utah, Colorado, 
and Wyoming hold up to 1 .8 tril- 
lion barrels of oil trapped in oil 
shale. One company, Unocal 
Corporation, struck a rich vein 
near Grand Junction, Colora- 
do. By heating the shale to 
900°F to release the oil, the 
company now produces up to 
7,000 barrels of the so-called 
synthetic crude oil per day, 
Workers scatter the spent 
shale — if takes 2,520 pounds 
of shale to produce one barrel 
of oil — near the mine, spread 
topsoil over it, and revegetate 
the area, "The deer love it," 
says Unocal spokesman Jeff 

Keeping a home for the 
deer and antelope to ptey is 
Unocal's brightest note, how- 
ever. Unscheduled shut- 
downs, to clear spent shale, 
plague the production plant, 
which has yet to reach its de- 
sign capacity of 10, GOO barrels 
a day. And not leas!, one bar- 
rel of synthetic oil costs be- 
tween $45 and $50 to pro- 
duce, compared with §4.82 for 
a barrel of U.S. oil, and $2 per 
barrel for everybody's favorite, 
Saudi oil. The company re- 
ceives price support from the 
government — up to $400 mil- 











lion by 1996— to make up the 
difference between the price it 
sells the oil and what It costs to 
"produce. After price supports 
run out, Calender's not sure 1 
whether the company will 
keep the operation going. 
"When oil rises to fifty dollars a 
barrel, ahale isn't the only ec- 
onomically feasible energy op- 
tion," he says. 

But the NRDC's Watson 
says, "How much energy 
does it cost to produce one bar- 
rel, when you heat the shale up 
to nine hundred degrees?" 

To remove the oil from the 
shale, many synthetic oil com- 
panies have employed a slur- 
ry process, which uses up 
large volumes of water from 
this already parched area. Wat- 
son says, "The environmental 
cost is not rolled into the alter- 
native fuel cost." 

The same goes for the 
Bush administration's pro- 
posed energy plan, which 
would open up 1.5 million 
acres of Alaska's Arctic Nation- 
al Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to ex- 
ploratory drilling. "It may be on- 
ly one percent of the land," Wat- 
son aays, "but it lies along the 
shore— it's teeming with wild- 
life, and any oil we take from 
there won't make a dent in the 
U.S. oil deficit." 

The administration wants to 
find more of this "easy oil," al- 
so known as primary oil: the 
gushers that make Texas wild- 
catters dance around in 
crude blackface, the bubblin' 
ooze that propelled the likes of 
Jed Clampett to Beverly Hills. 
It accounts for just 12 to 15 per- 
cent of a deposit's oil. Secon- 
dary recovery — like the wa- 
ter-injection field in Kansas — 
can flood another 15 to 20 per- 
cent from afield. 

For years secondary recov- 
ery meant injecting salt water — 
a by-product in many depos- 
its—down the deposit's center 
wells, and forcing oil to wells 
on ihe perimeter. When prices 
rise, producers find Increas- 
ingly ingenious and expensive 
means of injection that depend 
upon the quality of oil, 

At one Southern California 
lease, Oryx and Mission Ener- 
gy use steam, heated by nat- 
ural gas (another by-product of 
oil production), to get at one 
especially gooey deposit. And 
in a new procedure, workers In- 
ject microbes and molasses in- 
to a deposit, seal it, and let it 


You always come back to the basics. M 1 




t. Folks have dis- efficiency: 
ed what they call er II 

While energy-efficient appliar 
imes carry hiqher price tags, i 

44 percent by 
the year 2000. 

Americans have tak- 

sustaining the environ- 
ment — recycling 
waste, cleaning upth 


practical suggestions 
for energy savings. 


LIGHT ,.. ........ 

ving en- will just be wasted. Sim 

the oven slowly so make i 

; off. • Avoid open- ence. Sut 

■ Use the right-siz 
an for cooking; larger 

refrigerator pans require 
.^.jre cooking it. ergy. And 

Prehe; ' 
mger t 

utes. After that, to keep the heat inside, using less energy. 

I .,,„, „„„,, „„,iile black v, a „o , D ™ um, , u p U , 
cent. • Install occupancy sensors. If you forget t( 
| turn off the lights, the sensor does it. 

I - Periodically do a savings check on the fi 
placinq a dollar bill in tf— J 

Magazine, 2124 K 
, tredge, Suite 95, 
Berkeley, CA 94704- 

on CFCs, contact 

• set- the Alliance for Respon- 

l 38 L sible CFC Policy at 

, 5"F. 1901 North Fort Meyer 

geby Drive, Suite 1200, 

" it. If Arlington, VA 22209. 

las- • The Smart Kitchen, 

ir govern uui a^ta. 
This guide offers on- 
ting point 
- ! ng ei 

coils need air circulating around them. ■ L — „ 
freezers work best when filled with food, you 

tons with water at least halfway 

id you can Woodstock, 

gy; Fill milk NY 12498; $15.95. 

and place • Real Goods, 

ie to dump 966 Mazzoni Street, 

about 130 F. ■ If you st 

use gas heat, consider sir.r\._ 

a gas water heater. duce hot watei 

Over its lifetime, a gas sumption I 

hot water heater will as 50 perc 

-*-hmit 313,240, flow aerators 

ric will between $50 am 

■ or. the second cost about $3,"-" 

Iricity while an electric win 

jser.-Maximizetheper- take $8,040. ■ Monitor 

■ormance of your water your hot i 

neater by buying an Sto" ' 

insuiating blanket for hot 

about$l0. Monitorthe soo.. ™ ....... 

machines and dish- instead of a dryer, 
washers can also 'Washing dishes by 

waste water. Run only hand saves about 
half the hotv 






Where do we go from here? 
Today's fossil fuels won't become fuel fos 
overnight, but now is the time 
to look seriously for other energy source 

Will coal, even so-called clean coal, be 
stoking the world's stove in 2025? Will 
petroleum products propel our cars — 
and continue to wreak havoc on fragile 
ecosystems? Never has the cost of en- 
ergy — the environmental cost, that is — 
been more profound. 

The urgency with which the earth's 
citizens investigate these questions, in 
fact, has never been greater. Poli- 
cymakers and politicians have gotten 
wind of this buildup of harmful green- 
house gases around the globe, primar- 
ily due to the burning of fossil fuels. 
They must answer to an increasingly 
concerned public no longer willing to 
tolerate the polluting energy sources ■ 
and policies of the past. 

Researchers and engineers are also 
hunkering down, fine-tuning the technol- 
ogies for clean, renewable energy al- 
ternatives. Forward-thinking entrepre- 
neurs are pitching in, too, by finding the 
means to make them economical. 

These efforts are already bearing 
■ fruit. Today there is an array of renew- 
able energy sources that hold promise 
for the future. The status reports that 
follow highlight some of the energy op- 
tions facing world leaders and utility com- 
panies. As we race toward the twenty- 
first century, however, we will need to 
face an even greater issue: Our entire 
energy infrastructure must be reevalu- 
ated. On to the post-fossil era. 

Once upon a time, solar power was the 
golden child of energy. In the Seven- 
ties politicians embraced it, environmen- 
talists hailed it as the answer to the en- 
ergy crisis, and enterprising business- 
es took advantage of generous federal 
incentives to develop_ solar ventures. 
President Jimmy Carter even had solar 
panels installed on the White House. 

Within months of President Ronald 
Reagan's inauguration, however, he 
ditched the solar collectors, signaling 
the slashing of solar research budgets 
for eight consecutive years. From 1981 
to 1989, U.S. funding for solar energy 
and other renewables was cut from 
$750 million to $150 million, according 
to Christopher Flavin of the WorldWatch 
Institute. Hundreds of solar collector 
manufacturers went out of business or 
left for other shores. 

Despite fedora! funding barriers, how- 
ever, the solar industry has flourished. 
More than 1 .2 million U.S. buildings now 
sport solar water heating systems, and 
the political climate for developing oth- 
er uses for solar energy appears, well, 
sunny. And in 1990 federal research 
and development budgets increased 
by 30 percent. "In the Seventies there 
was virtually no solar industry," says 
Scott Sklar, executive director of the So- 
lar Energy Industries Association. "To- 

"An interesting phenomenon-. the woukosl and least intei/igent 
male seems to have developed a system of taxation. " 

day it's a mature, billion-dollar industry." 
Nowhere is this more apparent than in 
California's Mojave Desert, where an ar- 
ray of collectors now produces rough- 
ly 350 megawatts of power, almost 
half the capacity of a nuclear power 
plant and 92 percent of the world's so- 
lar supply. Built by the Luz" Corporation, 
the system uses mirrors mounted on par- 
abolic troughs to focus sunlight onto 
pipes carrying synthetic oil. Heat from 
the oil creates steam that drives a tur- 
bine generator. Luz's electricity costs 
about eight cents per kilowatt-hour, 
close to the residential average. 

The drawback: Prime sites for such 
solar thermal-electric plants are con- 
fined to the sunny Southwest. Other so- 
lar technologies, however, such as sea- 
sonal solar energy storage systems 
could potentially till in where sunlight is 
Irks abundant. Demonstrated primarily 
in Europe, these systems gather heat 
during summer months and store it un- 
derground for use in the winter. 

Solar photovoltaic cells, however, 
hold the greatest potential. Semicon- 
ductor devices, photovoltaics convert 
sunlight directly into electricity, produc- 
ing no pollution or noise, and don't re- 
quire any moving parts. Today's best 
cells convert 36 percent of their area's 
sunlight into electricity, up from about 
16 percent in the mid-Seventies. Prom- 
ising thin-film devices, one fiftieth the 
thickness of human hair, should let the 
sun shine even brighter. 

Photovoltaic electricity now costs 
five times more than conventionally 
produced energy. But photovoltaics 
should eventually yield electricity cheap- 
er than what we have today because 
thin-film cells can be easily mass-pro- 
duced, says Princeton University ener- 
gy analyst Robert Williams. 

The climate for solar development 
may be improving, but some industry 
watchers fear that it may be too late for 
the United States to reclaim its early 
edge-in the world market. "It's a ques- 
tion of whether we're going to do it our- 
selves or sit back and let the Japanese 
run our solar energy factories, just like 
they're doing in the auto industry," 
Sklar says. — Steve Nadis 


In a remote village in central India, a 
barefoot farmer beams with pride as he 
shows off the community's power 
source: an underground tank where 
cow manure, straw, and other plant res- 
idues are converted into methane gas 
for cooking and lighting. 

Bioenergy — burning plants, wood, ' 
and agricultural waste for fuel — is near- 
ly as old as man. Today millions of In- 
dians and Chinese use such materials 
for energy. Biomass, mainly in the form 
of firewood, already provides 14 per- 
cent of the world's energy, equal to the 
21 million barrels of oil produced by 


Barbara Nessim's studio 
is the very image of the Manhattan 
artist's flat. The area is filled 
with all the tools of the trade: brush- 
es, sponges, jars of paint 
and ink, spattered worktables. But 
what sets her studio apart are 
the computers, which, with a corner 
all their own, form the true 
center of her work space. "I still 
work with other materials, 
of course," says Nessim, a working 
artist for more than two 
decades, "but I spend most of my 
time with the computers." 
Programmers have been toying with 
computer graphics for decades, 
but it is only relatively recently that 
nonspecialists have been 
attracted to computer art. Nessim her- 
self was one of the pioneers, 
getting involved in the early Eighties, 
when computer graphics were 
just gaining limited artistic accept- 
ance in some circles. Many 
people in the art world, as in society 
at large, remain skeptical 
of computers, but Nessim hopes to 
introduce them to the possi- 
bilities with her "Random Access 
Memories" exhibition, which 
opened al New York's Rempire Fine 
Art and Gallery on April 11. 
"Random Access Memories" con- 
sists of four displays: a series 
of three-dimensional "stereo pair" 
framed images, four poster- 
size single-image pastels, seven of 
Nessim's 6' x 9' composite 
flags (each composed of 72 individ- 
ual computer drawings), and 
a Macintosh-based interactive expe- 
rience that yields each visitor 
a personalized miniature sketch- 
book. Although at first glance 
Nessim's work does not suggest the 







aid of computers, these 

displays would have been nearly im- 
possible without (hem. The 
3-D. display, for instance, relies on 
two similar but slightly 
offset slide photographs — one for 
the left eye, one for the 
right — placed in a viewing device. 
The distinct images are 
combined in the viewer's brain to cre- 
ate the illusion of depth. 
The minute differences between the 
two slides would have been 
extremely difficult to manage by 
hand, but with the comput- 
er's help, Nessim could make the 
changes easily. Likewise, 
the interactive exhibit, which Nessim 
calls "the jewel of the 
show," couldn't exist apart from the 
computer. Nessim filled a 
database with more than 200 draw- 
ings, and the gallery visitor 
uses the computer to select sketch- 
es to include in a miniature 
booklet, which the machine prints on 
the spot. "Everyone who 
comes will get a little gift," Nessim 
explains, "which not only 
serves as a souvenir from the show 
but is also a unique work of 
art. And they choose it themselves, 
they participate in it." Just 
as some writers are searching for 
ways to involve the reader 
more directly in the reading expe- 





■~- -£>~ 



> &£ 

/- J 

rience, Nessim has found a way to 
give the audience an active role 
in her display. The computer offers 
artists a few clear advantages: 
minute control of the work, the pow- 
er to make changes and correc- 
tions quickly and easily, and the abil- 
ity to create multiple identical 
copies of an item with minimal diffi- 
culty. But the computer has yet 
to produce a revolution in the art 
world. Most computer artists still 
rely on more traditional means for 
producing finished work: They 
use the computer to make rough 
sketches or. as in Nessim's 
case, components for a larger work 
developed outside the machine. 
High-quality plotters and printers are 
still prohibitively expensive, and 

even the best are limited in the sorts 
of effects they can create. 
As long as such limitations exist, ar- 
tistic applications of com- 
puter technology will be circum- 
scribed as well. So for now 
the computer will remain an exotic 
design tool for interested 
artists, rather than an indispensable 
one for all. But as more gal- 
leries open their doors to exhibitions 
of computer art, some sort 
of explosion cannot be far off. Some- 
day. Nessim predicts, the 
computer will become "like the tele- 
phone. You're not going to be 
able to live without one, and you're 
not going to want to." In that 
computerized world, work like hers 
will find a natural home. 00 

The doors of perception: 

Exploring the structures of the sensory 

brain, the dean of American 

neuroscience is beginning to see 

the very mechanics of 

mind and how we construct reality 


The monkey in the chair 
screeches and bares his 
teeth at intruders. He 
doesn't like interruptions at work. Dis- 
criminating work. Brain work. 
From ihe next room, you watch the 
trail of his decision making on a 
computer screen. Microelectrodes in 
his cerebral cortex signal the pre- 
cise neurons receiving information 
about the vibrations he feels in 
his fingertips. You see the neurons 
"evaluating" that information, 
comparing one frequency to a slight- 
ly different one milliseconds later. 
In the course of a working day, the 
monkey makes hundreds of discrim- 

inations between frequencies. He's 
seldom wrong. "We've boxed in 
the neural discriminandum," says 
Johns Hopkins neurophysiologist 
Vernon Mountcastie. "We've discov- 
ered where the animal tells the 
difference between these things." 

The scientific life of Vernon 
Mountcastie can be seen as a 45- 
year sequence of thrillers. As he 
journeys deeper into the nervous sys- 
tem, each discovery about how 
the brain constructs reality leads to 
another cliff hanger. It's 1991, 
and Mountcastie has located the 
spot in the primary cortex where 
Ihe primate discriminates. But will 


he discover how the animal tells the 
difference between 28 and 31 hertz 
buzzing on his fingertips? Catch the 
next paper. 

Coming from Virginia, and like 
many old-line Virginians, Mountcastle 
can trace his lineage — to Scotland, 
and to Pocahontas. "I once started 
to put Native American on an appli- 
cation," he says, allowing as how 
he'd calculated 500.000 Southerners 
are descended from Pocahontas. 
"But in Virginia it confers kissin' 
rights. Pocahontas's son married in- 
to one of the families and had about 
fifteen children. It spread that way." 
Mountcasfle's grandfather raised hors- 
es. "My father's job was to break the 
three-year-olds," he says. "He was a 
superb rider and at ninety his belly 
was hard as a rock." His father built 
railroads, and as a boy Vernon rode 
the regular-gauge rails and operated 
the steam shovel. The depression de- 
stroyed railroad building, but the fa- 
ther bought a broken-down concrete 
plant "and drove it to great success." 
Mountcastle worked there as a teen- 
ager and through Roanoke College. 
He went to medical school at Johns 
Hopkins, graduating in 1942. "I intend- 
ed to be a neurosurgeon," he recalls. 
"I didn't become a scientist until I was 
thirty." He did research for a year in 
the Johns Hopkins University School 
of Medicine and essentially never 
left, serving for 16 years as the direc- 
tor of the Bard Laboratories of Neu- 
rophysiology and now University Pro- 
fessor of neuroscience. Addressing 
colleagues in 1975, Mountcastle 
spoke about brain and reality; "Each, 
of us lives within successively cascad- 
ed enclosing worlds. One [world] 

lies deep wiiinn hidden stiil from ob- 
jective probes. From it, Cyclopean- 
like, we view all others, like that dis- 
tant one in which, via telereception, 
you see me now and hear my 
voice." Brain research increasingly ern- 
phasi7.es molecular biology and chem- 
istry.- Yet many maintain that this man 
embodies the essence of neurosci- 
ence. As his friend Maxwell Cowan 
said recently, "When the last gene is 
synthesized, we'll still want to know 
what the brain does. Then we'll come 
once more to Vernon Mountcastle." 

Omni: You are a pioneer in research 
on the waking brain. 
Mountcastle: I'm just a worker in the 
ranks. Until the late Sixties we all 
worked in "preparations": anesthe- 
tized animals or animals in which the 
brain had been reduced, say, by re- 
moval of a part or transection of the 
spinal cord. We studied brain path- 
ways and what we thought were phys- 
iological aspects of sensation and per- 
ception in a preparation that wasn't 
sensing or perceiving. The advent of 
waking brain methods broke open a 
whole new world of central nervous 
system physiology in which we ap- 
proach these problems. One nice 
thing in these experiments is the an- 
imal is in control. If he won't work at 
the task you've trained him to do, the 
experiment ends. 

Mountcastle sought to discover 
how "an event in reality" is regis- 
tered — first, as a relatively close 
match to what the skin might "feel" 
(a representation he named the iso- 
morph). As the isomorphic signal en- 
ters the sensory cortex, it is trans- 
formed into a more, abstracted 

code. Distributed by neuronal sys- 
tems throughout the brain, these 
codes are ultimately reconstructed as 
a perception — with its memories, emo- 
tion--, and intentions to act. These con- 
structions, the abstracted "central rep- 
resentations of materia: reality," he 
says, "are essential components of 
the- mechanism of mind. " 
Omni: Until recently you were investi- 
gating complex visual perceptions. 
Why did you return to the system of 
touch, an area you set aside for al- 
most twenty years? 
Mountcastle: Because of its relative 
simplicity. The somatic system is a win- 
dow — because the skin is so close to 
:he cortex. One or two synapses, and 
bang, you're in! In the visual and audi- 
tory systems the processing is much 
more complex before you get to the 
cortex. I want to study a couple of 
things absolutely fundamental to 
understanding the brain. The truth is, 
nobody can answer the big questions 
of how we think, perceive, or put 
things in memory. A secret of a suc- 
cessful scientist is choosing a prob- 
lem with at least a fractional proba- 
bility of being solved. 
Omni: At your career's beginning, 
you studied one neuron at a time. 
What did you think you'd find with sin- 
gle-unit analysis? 

Mountcastle: It was really an atro- 
cious idea. Sticking an electrode in 
the brain to study the cell kills half the 
cells on the way down. Still, most of 
what we now know about the basic 
mechanisms of sensation and percep- 
tion has been learned by single-neu- 
ron analysis. Previously, my teacher 
Philip Bard and colleagues devel- 



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The assassination 

Of John F. Kennedy touched a 

generation — and spawned 

a wealth of conspiracy theories 



tribe which offered up its vir- quest th 

gins without remembering screened space babes on clutched his neck, and then 

why. A woman showed inter- top of our loop. You can see the governor was hit. His 

est in him, he'd thrust his everything in those garter cheeks inflated with air 

head into the maw of love; belts they're wearing.'' forced from the lungs, as if 

yet, if his feelings were recip- "And th 

rocated, the couple soon the edges, ..„ 

found themselves unable to lines overlap. Ou 

develop their tryst into more i 

than a brief corresponding of Natalie kissed him. When Edc 

mutual nhsossinnR- for as she did thev seemed to for- jump, before the car came 
iding out from behind the sign?" 

3 , _w, and after so iong she world contained anyone, or "That 

would pass again ghostlike in- anything, otherthan t 

to the night. '■ 

"It's different this time," he that p^ 

avnwprl As ever I chose to mind 

Kennedy slumped toward his 

After dinner we sat in his !p 

. always memorable < 

in that for others, if not them- where it had been seconds 
flowed as freely as the wine selves, a splendid harvest before. The camera panned 



and cheerfully argun 
live. Edgar clasped her 
hands in his and constantly 

needing to be taking her 

done," he said, getting up 
and inserting their tape into 
of his machines that I 
might judge the fruit of their 

"imb. His television 

; in its blurs I u«.» 
' ladow. "The 
iny luck get- 
said. "Not 
i in clubs." 

might later be gathered. right, and ail 

The tape played. "You've to a fc 

led to use a lighter ot 
upon awakening. "It's '• 
washing a window that's r 
er been cleaned .before.-' 

; rising fr 
knoll. The film re-. 
!; the Lincoln swung 
slowly onto Elm Street. The 
crowd cheered as it always 
had, the Pi " 
he always 
lightened i 
God, toucr 

ged "Where the film jumps, that 

Kennedy lifted his arms as if 
shielding his face 
reached for I 
made wound. If 

"Proves what?" I asked. 
"That the film i 

peared unaware of anything "But the notion o 

footage, that's a new one," Natalie 
said. "The key to the complicities." 

I was in second grade when the prin- 
cipal announced that school was'clos- 
ing early, that the President had been 
ambushed. I imagined rustlers, guns 
drawn, leaping up from behind sage- 
brush. Edgar never before demonstrat- 
ed any greater awareness of complici- 
ty than my own, but then, this was one 
of his traditions, that the fascinations of 
his other became his own within sec- 
onds of his hearing of them. Romance 
enabled Edgar to allow others to plot 
his life in advance as carefully as the 
route of a motorcade through an unse- 
cured city. "You started reading up on 
this for the project?" I asked. The film 
jumped; Kennedy lifted his arms. 
Edgar raised his own and pointed to a 
stack of books atop a black console, 

"Natalie lent me part of her collec- 

"What would be on this missing foot- 
age?" I asked. 

"The first shot," he said. "If the film 
originally showed that initial impact, 
the official timing would be demon- 
strated false. The single-bullet theory 
would be demolished, and with it, 
the single-assassin theory." Edgar 
smiled. "Takes two to tango," She 
kissed him, again. 

"But it happened so long ago," ! 
said. "What's to be gained from seeing 

missing footage, were it to exist, and if 
it were still in the film?" 

"Understanding," they said as one, 
blushed, then nuzzled. "Has America ev- 
er been the same, since? And can any- 
one say exactly why that should be so? 
The child comes home from school and 
finds Father lying in a pool of blood in 
the living room: Will the child's life af- 
terward ever be the same? If you don't 
undersland what actually happened in 
the past, how can you ever relate to the 
present?" Perhaps, I hoped, this be- 
spoke an awareness of now that spe- 
cific inquiry might be applied to his emo- 
tional state as well as his political. "But 
knowing there were two assassins won't 
mean we'll ever know who they were," 
Natalie said. 

"It could still make a difference," 
Edgar said. "Misperception, that's 
where all the trouble starts. Thinking you 
understand when you really don't. But 
if you do truly understand the past, you 
can start making sense of the present, 
and then, finally, you can move on to 
the future — " 

"The future's something else," she 
said. "Let it happen and worry about it 
as it comes." 

"The point is," he said, ignoring 
hers, "the waves from this particular 
storm break even today on the unlikeli- 
est shores. What were you saying the 
other, evening, Natalie? When we met 

the musicians at the studio?" 

"The assassination's why drums be- 
came so important in popular music af- 
ter 1963." she said. "I meant to tell 
that to Lawrence — " 

"Excuse me 7 " I asked. 

"Why the big beat's essential. Do you 
remembe' hearing anything else that 
weekend? When you think of Kennedy 
now, what do you hear?" 

"A psychic necessity, you could 
say," said Edgar, 

"You could," said Natalie, rolling her 
eyes. "A heartbeat you had to hear ev- 
er after, to know you were still alive. 
That's what I'd call it." 

Some opinions concerning history 
are best left alone; I let it go. Natalie 
said she had to leave, not long after. 
That she wasn't even spending the 
nigh', shocked me more than that she 
wasn't yet living there. Edgar moved his 
ex-wife into his apartmenl halfway 
through their first date. 

"What do you think?" he asked, 
once she'd gone. I told him. "It's so won- 
derful," he said, agreeing; I knew he 
would. "We have so much in common." 

"Just keep your head' on straight 
about this and it'll work," I said. 
"You know how you tend to behave, 
though — " 

"It's not like that with Natalie, it's not—" 

"Why'd she leave?" I asked. "Does 
she do editing in the evening?" 

"Her husband's expecting her," He 
looked away from me, that he wouldn't 
see the expression he knew he'd find 
on my face. "That is, Lawrence — " 

"Her husband?" I repeated. "Does 
he know about this?" 

"Not yet," Edgar said. "No one 
knows she's seeing me. It would hurt 
her too much if anyone knew, so 
don't let on," I took my coat from the 
closet. "We work around it. It's no 
more uncertain than any relationship. 
More complicated." 

"Be careful," I said, 

"She's worth ft," he said. "It's differ- 
ent this time. It is. It really is." Conclud- 
ing his litany, he smiled and shook my 
I ond goodnight, for the moment seem- 
ing to believe what he'd told me. 

They kissed, they were happy; how 
easy a state is that to even attain, 
much less possess? But circumstanc- 
es demanded tha: "heir snared world re- 
main circumscribed; it must have 
been impressed upon them each day 
how their life together could be ap- 
preciated to no greater degree than 
might frames snipped from a film, or un- 
deniable facts lacking a theory, how- 
ever ultimately provable. They slipped 
sounds of love over the lines of pay 
phones, passed cryptic messages to 
one another that no one else could de- 
code—met by serendipitous arrange- 
ment, if not at Edgar's, in bistros in the 
afternoon, where no eyes saw their word- 

less kisses, no ears heard their silent 
secrets. No recriminations, no confes- 
sions, no footprints left visible in the 
grass: Those rules their plot required. 

After that first evening it seemed to 
me that I only saw them from afar, 
however near they may have been; 
glimpsed them but peripherally, as 
through an upper-floor window 
washed too infrequently to be anything 
other than opaque. When the three of 
us were able to meet, our conversations 
took on a disconcerting predictability. 
Natalie always had to go home by ten; 
before eight-thirty their monologue con- 
cerned the trials of forever working 
around Lawrence, and after, [he words 
■ dealt solely with assassination arcana: 
geometric equations regarding wound 
ratios, or the noms de guerre of 
tramps arrested near the triple under- 
pass after the shooting, or the misper- 
ception of a fence shadow as the sil- 
houette of six Cuban gunmen. 

Sometimes I wondered if they would 
ever again recall that existence pro- 
ceeded nevertheless after 1963. After 
another month I discerned their mono- 
logue becoming solely Edgar's; when 
Natalie interrupted, it was only to remind 
him of those areas of their concept 
with which Lawrence disagreed. Her hus- 
band had his own theories. 

One night I ran into the three of them 

at a party in Soho; that evening it was 
evident who accompanied whom. After- 
ward I went with them to a coffee 
shop, as one hurries to see the results 
of a friend's automobile accident. Law- 
rence was a teacher, and twenty years 
older than Natalie. 

"My course is called 'Kennedy Post- 
mortem,' " he told me. 

"A postmodern approach?" I asked: 

"Neopost," he said. As dog owners, 
over time, take on the less ignorable 
characteristics of their pets, so his 
look inferred an almost genetic relation- 
ship to his subject, as if he might have 
been a previously overlooked Kennedy 
brother, perhaps snuck into this world 
from one parallel, where the men of 
that family refrained from entering poli- 
tics and became instead shoe sales- 
men, bouncers in Irish bars, or teach- 
ers at the New School. 

"I've been tackling the question of di- 
rection — " Edgar began, bringing up 
the usual topic of conversation. 

"We agree that a cross fire was in- 
volved," said Lawrence. 

"Evident," said Edgar. Neither he nor 
Lawrence, I noticed, looked directly at 
one another as they spoke. "And the 
missing footage could demonstrate 
that, at the expense of some of your 

"Missing footage's a red herring, not 
unlike-Oswald," said Lawrence. "The 

construct works without the introduction 
of superfluous facts that so-called miss- 
ing footage might show." 

"Which construct do you mean?" I 
asked. Lawrence stared ai me, as if for- 
getting exactly who I was and how I 
had come to be sitting so near. Natalie 
sat between him and Edgar, looking 
from one to the other as she listened. 

"What's the context?" 

"What are you talking about?" I 

"Edgar's fallen prey to the usual mis- 
conceptions, I think, that after the as- 
sassination some enormous cabal 
sprang forth full-blown to fudge the ev- 
idence as it was discovered. When 
would there have been time to edit the 
film? Who would have okayed the chang- 
es? My orbital points — that is, my es- 
sential theses— work better, I believe, 
so we'll go with those." 

I could tell he knew about Edgar and 
Natalie, even if he didn't know; call it 
perception, call it inspiration, call it 
what you like. When Lawrence looked 
at his wife it was clear to me. how much 
he hated to love her. 

"What are your essential theses, by 
the way?" I asked, cognizant of how 
deftly he had thus far avoided mention- 
ing them. 

"There were at least two assassins in 
each location," he said. "Two on the 
knoll, two in the Dal-Tex building, two 
at the Texas School Book Depository. 
Possibly three in the Depository, 
though on different floors." 

"How could that many people keep a 
secret?" Edgar asked. "Besides, they'd 
have been shooting each other — " 

"Deliberately, perhaps," said Law- 
rence. Glancing up from the table, I was 
taken aback to see Natalie wink at me 
and smile. I looked away. 

"Your theories could run concurrent- 
ly," I heard her say; she was as attuned 
to her husband's conceits as she was 
to Edgar's. "There's no reason for 
them to be mutually exclusive." 

"Nor reason for them not to be," 
said Lawrence. 

"Can't you see how impossible this 
is?" Edgar asked, taking a pen and 
sketching lines upon the paper table- 
cloth. "Leaving acoustics aside for the 
moment, how many others would have 
been caught in such a cross fire?" 

"By my estimation," Lawrence said, 
"twenty-seven shots were fired. Most 

"You're not hearing me," Edgar 
said; he scrawled a sharp-edged trian- 
gle atop his map of Dealey Plaza's 
streets. Waiters passed by, glared, and 
didn't offer refills. "That's the essential 
form, right there. Anything else would 
be impossible. The angles would nev- 
er align, following your plan." 

"The lines of fire are superimposed," 
Lawrence said. "One over the next, 
over the next, and all aiming in similar 

directions. Undoubtedly some shots 
were fired into the air to confuse. Spar- 
rows tell from the sky into the plaza, min- 
utes after the shooting." 

I suspected at first that he was only 
stringing Edgar along, taking some in- 
defensible pleasure in academic sa- 
dism; then I realized that he believed 
in what he said, and that made it all the 
more troubling. The plaza's three 
streets, I saw, curved into a tip just 
before Ihey thrust themselves through 
the underpass's opening. Natalie 
smiled at me again. "No," said Edgar. 
"Nothing more than an acute triangle 
with three simple vertices. You're mak- 
ing this so much more complicated 
than it has to be." 

"Lawrence's points are as valid as 
yours, Edgar," Natalie said. "Don't 
push it." 

"Certain evidence, too, is believed to 
exist," Lawrence continued, his smile 
showing how aware he was that his ma- 
nipulations were so subtle that there 
was no need any longer to acknowl- 
edge the existence of another's argu- 
ment, "suggesting that Kennedy 
wasn't killed, that he was impersonat- 
ed in the presidential limousine by Of- 
ficer Tippit." Edgar sighed, looked at 
the angles into which he'd allowed him- 
self to be drawn. 

"He may still live in peaceful seclu- 
sion,-' said Lawrence, "on a farm in 

Montana, or on a Pacific island. Who 
can say?" 

Wheo Natalie winked at me, when 
she smiled, i understood the compul- 
sive attention that in private her pres- 
ence demanded from Ihem, however dis- 
tant appeared her public relationships. 
As Lawrence unfolded the blueprints of 
his illusory structure, so as well I felt the 
inner peace that an impossible surety 
might lend to souls that toss and turn 
in the night. Closing my eyes I almost 
believed I saw a hidden isle, way west 
of Sumatra: There, in a palm-shaded 
grove, the Kennedy brothers creep in- 
to Marilyn Monroe's grass hut to cover 
her skin in coconut milk; John Lennon 
strums a ukulele as Jim Morrison 
serves fresh tropical fruit to Hitler, af- 
terward emptying the Fuhrer's bedpan; 
James Dean, horribly disfigured, lies on 
the beach, listens to the surf, dreams 
of the open road; as evening falls, all 
gather for their torchlit ritual, dropping 
to their knees in prayer, searching star- 
scarred black velvet skies for Elvis, who 
in his glory will one day descend from 
heaven in a shiny silver mother ship, ac- 
companied by a retinue of Venerians, 
Jovians, and the Lindbergh baby. 

I stared at the triangle; to my eyes it 
appeared not acute, but obtuse. 

"It's like arguing with someone who's 
sure the earth is flat," Edgar said to me, 

several weeks later. "I'll never win." 

He'd called after midnight, asking — 
begging, truly— if we could talk. Nata- 
lie and Lawrence were away for the 
weekend, attending a conference in Phil- 
adelphia. "If you were working on some- 
thing, you wouldn't be so preoccupied 
with this," 1 said, "and fm not- talking 
about these theories. Don't you have 
any new assignments coming up?" 

"I've been putting them on hold," he 
said. "They might not have even gone 
to the conference. There may not even 
be a conference, for all I know—" 

"Why would she tell you there was if 
there wasn't? You trust her, don't you?" 

"I don't trust him. I do trust my per- 
ceptions. Something's scaring him and 
he's taking it out on her. You've seen 
them together. He pulls the strings and 
she goes along. He's been able to 
make her do anything he wants — " 

"I wouldn't think he'd be making her 
go out with you," I said, "and if he's 
scared I'd imagine it's because he 
knows you and his wife are up to some- 
thing, even if he's not sure what. And 
he may be crazy but he's not stupid," 

"He's keeping her from me. We get 
along so perfectly. It's not fair — " 

"Edgar, they're married, that's reality." 

"Reality's what you make it," he 
said. "They have nothing in common. 
Why can't she see?" It was so late, and 
I was so tired, and unable or unwilling 
to think of anything else I might say to 
him which he 'might heed; whatever I 
said in this mood of his would harm as 
much as help, I suspected. "Why won't 
he let her see? What's he got to hide? 
Do you really think he's as crazy as he 
seems? He can't be, she wouldn't put 
up with it. It must be some sort of act." 

"Some sort of game, perhaps." It's a 
bad situation, I wanted to say; get out 
of it. "Be careful, Edgar." 

"I don't see how she stands him." 

"Talk to her about it," I said. 
"When's she get back, Monday?" 

"I think so," he said. "She- wouldn't 
tell me." 

Having so much undesired expertise 
now concerning these matters, I am 
aware of the existence of a photograph 
of President Johnson, taken aboard Air 
Force One, moments after the swear- 
ing in on the afternoon of November 22, 
1963. Old Lyndon looks away from the 
camera and turns to face a fellow Tex- 
as politician. The image forever pre- 
served captures the man giving his new 
President a wink and a smile. Much 
could be made of that, were one of 
suspicious mind; yet, if in any given in- 
stant less, as "well as more, beats un- 
seen beneath the unpierceable shell, 
then a wink may be no more than a re- 
flex, a theory nothing but a dream, a 
hope only delusion; that in every in- 
stance the most evident is least certain. 
It unnerved me, recalling how I was so 

excited by her wink, her smile; and 
they loved her. 

Two weeks after, Edgar called me fol- 
lowing a prolonged silence, during 
which time I began to wonder if they 
had somehow managed to slip back 
through the years, to take what they 
imagined as their safer place in a by- 
gone era, or perhaps attempt to 
change what had gone before, and so 
at last bring a possibility into their 
present that they could in no other way 
have. "People were trying to find you, 
Edgar," I said. "You missed oul on at 
least one job that I know of. WhereVe 
you been?" 

"We went out of town for the week- 
end," he said. In the background i 
heard Natalie cough. "Seized the mo- 
ment. Lawrence had to go out of town 
for another conference. Natalie decid- 
ed not to go. We had three days to our- 
selves. It was so wonderful." 
"Where did you go?" 
"Dallas." When he told me, I 
couldn't imagine why I should have 
been surprised. "It was like a honey- 
moon. We went to the Depository on Sat- 
urday afternoon and- took the tour. It's 
a museum now, they even have the box- 
es in the right place on the sixth floor. 
You didn't get my postcard?" 

"No—" Natalie seemed to be saying 
something, but I couldn't hear her well 
enough to understand. 

"It might have been intercepted," he 
said. "You understand?" Deciding that 
I did long before I could reply, he con- 
tinued. "We had dinner at a wonderful 

"Friends've told me of good restau- 
rants in Dallas — " I started to say. 

"And then we went back to the pla- 
za," he said. "There was a full moon, 
" and you can see the stars down there 
at night. It was so warm, even at this 
time of year. The homeless are able to 
sleep on the grass. No one else was 
around. We were walking along the per- 
gola, it's like a little concrete porch. It's 
where Zapruder was standing. At that 
moment I realized how apparent it was 
that it'd never work." 
"You did—?" 

"The plaza's too small," he said. 
"There couldn't have been. so many peo- 
ple shooting, everyone would have 
been killed. Talk about red herrings, 
you'd think he was using it as a cover 
story. She could see how idiotic his the- 
ory was then. I know she could. I kept 
saying, 'You see,' and she kept nod- 
ding. She saw. Then we both saw." 

He'd lowered his own voice enough 
that I could more distinctly hear Nata- 
lie's; I couldn't tell as to whom she 
might be speaking. "There wasn't any 
way around it — " she was saying, I sup- 
posed she referred to whatever it was 
that they'd seen. 

"I don't follow, Edgar." 


FOLKS OFTEN ASK US if there really was 
a Jack Daniel. Well, there he is up on the left. 

Keeping his old photo around (as well as the one 
of his nephew, Lem Modow) helps us keep true to 
their whiskey making methods. You see, we still 
smooth out our whiskey in exactly the 
same way our founder prescribed- 
mellowing each drop through hard 
maple charcoal burned right here on 
distillery grounds. We think Jack 
and Lem would still approve the 
results. And after a sip, we think 
you'll approve them too. 



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Was a Japanese secret weapon responsible for the most 

publicized UFO report of all time? 

UFO researcher John Keel 

mous UFO incident of all 
ime is just a lot of hat air. Ac- 
cording to Keel, the infamous 

.„„ during World War 
aperiodofsixr"nni^= & 

ment holding the balloon pan- 
Is toqether fell apart, the 

the jet stream over the 6,500-mile-wide Pacific Ocean and 

eorologist who established the Air 
" n Air For- 

the Jap 

Ihor with Donald Schmitt of 

ging out of th: 
As for the . 
widespread ( 
Office of Censorship had 
arts of balloon incidenl 

rs largely c 
Fu-Gos had failed 

lypothesis hinges on t..~ ,_ 

-e secret in 1947," he says, "and 

n alien spaceships."— PATRICK HU) 



any real effect? Altc.u...^ , ,.,„., .,^ U j, ,~, _, 

c her Daniel | 16 days, sitting in his sl 

try with their arms kr 

placed through an „ r „ 
a wall. Although Ihey ■ 
told tr 

randomly room was recording the 
3m for "energy" flowing from tl 




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icane approached? No 

,. lolograph .._. 
together by sor.„ 
i a dark 

iys. "The figure wa: 
applied to it." 

Moran says that he has 

the Hugo pictu._ ... 
are blurred. But the figu 
are virtually the same a. .„ 
obviously came from the 
same negative." 

image very seriously. E 
■' — /er started all 

having fun." 
—Sherry B 

s of the influenza 

i . ■ ong Earthlings. 

Hoyle and his colleague 
Chandra Wickramasinghe, 
3- I both of the University of 

School of Mathemat- 
nows where to j ics, recently pi 
Hoyle, who connection in a ■<?»..• >■-■ 

■rized that life eminent British science 

they note, periods of 
I maximum sunspot activity 


that average about eleven 

virus float freely through 
space. These free-floating 

Word of Hoyle' 
suggestion has s 
apidly among sc 

"We know abo 

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ologist at 

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ters for 

members to go 
hoot a Bigfoot fot 








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consumption of oil and coal, says 
Princeton's Robert Williams. 

Indeed, produced at a sustainable 
rate, biomass has a lot going for it. Car- 
bon dioxide, released when biomass is 
processed, burned, or fermented, bal- 
ances the carbon dioxide consumed dur- 
ing photosynthesis. The bottom line: Un- 
like fossil fuels, biomass does not con- 
tribute to global warming. 

Williams believes biomass, especial- 
ly in the form of wood chips and sug- 
arcane waste, could power electric 
plants that use new technologies bor- 
rowed from jet engines, as well as the 
coal-fired power plants that biomass 
could ultimately phase out. The plants 
would rely on gasification, a process of 
converting the solid fuel into gas by burn- 
ing it with low oxygen, similar to bank- 
ing a fire in a wood stove by shutting 
down the air intake. A by-product of gas- 
ification, carbon monoxide would burn 
in a superefficient turbine generator 
like those in jets; waste heat would' be 
recycled to power an additional steam- 
driven electric generator. 

Such technologies could easily fur- 
nish electricity in the 80 developing na- 
tions that grow sugar. Over the next 40 
years, the gasification of waste ba- 
gasse, the part of sugarcane with the 
juice extracted, could produce 70 per- 
cent more electric power than all Ihe 
countries produced by burning coal 
and oil in 1987. Biomass power plants 
could also gasify low-quality wood har- 
vested from forests or grown as an en- 
ergy crop on hundreds of millions of 
acres of nonproductive grasslands, pas- 
tures, range, and deforested lands. 

To succeed, producing energy from 
biomass will require responsible agricul- 
tural and industrial practices, warns 
Sam Baldwin, a physicist with the 
Office of Technology Assessment. In Bra- 
zil.for example, 44 million cars are cur- 
rently powered by ethanol, a biomass 
fuel made from fermented sugar, and 
the discharge of untreated ethanol by- 
products has fouled many of the rivers 
in the country's northwest. 

Moreover, if countries fail to use on- 
ly surplus, waste, or specially grown fu- 
els, biomass power plants could end up 
consuming trees needed to control ero- 
sion, dung needed for fertilizer, straw 
necessary to replenish soils, and even 


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Tim A<8%Z%% 

© ART CUMINGS My wor i < 

has become I'm 

"too cerebral trying to 
get back 





do yov 
■fchmk ? Try harder 

such food ingredients as cornstarch 
and sugar. "I'd hate to see a choice be- 
ing made between food for Ihe poor 
and fuel for the rich," Baldwin says. 

-Ben Barber 


The two words nuclear energy pack as 
much emotional punch as A-bomb, can- 
cer, or AIDS. Chernobyl and Three 
Mile Island have become emblems of 
great hopes dashed much as the Chal- 
lenger disaster forced NASA to over- 
haul the U.S. space program. Unlike the 
space program, however, the nation's 
nuclear industry — which has contract- 
ed no new plants since 1978 — appears 
indefinitely stalled. 

But not doomed. Growing concern 
about global warming may offer the ail- 
ing industry a chance for a comeback, 
says Carl Goldstein, vice president of 
the U.S. Council for Energy Awareness. 
According to a 1989 council report, nu- 
clear-generated electricity reduced util- 
ity emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 
percent. Nuclear plants produce almost 
no particulate emissions, carbon mon- 
oxide, volatile organic compounds, or 
methane. Nor do they generate noise 
or visible pollution or require large num- 
bers of vehicles to haul fuel. 

That's the good news. The downside 
of nuclear power— the safety of . 
reactors and the disposal of radioactive 
waste— continues ;o chal enge research- 
ers. Nuclear's "second coming" will re- 
quire solutions to both problems. 

Most American nuclear power 
plants, including the one that neared 
meltdown at Three Mile Island, have 
light water reactors. For many of them, 
when problems crop up, plant person- 
nel must activate systems designed to 
avert potential disasters. The U.S. Nu- 
clear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is 
currently reviewing plans for an ad- 
vanced light water reactor {ALWR) that 
takes human fallibility into accounf. It 
sports passive safety features depend- 
ent on natural physical processes- 
gravity, natural circulation, and convec- 
tion. The ALWR is simpler to build and 
operate and has lower generating 
costs than current nuclear plants. 

The United States is far from alone 
in the search for a safe, reactor. One 
promising though untried reactor is the 
process inherent ultimately safe reac- 
tor, a radically passive design from Swe- 
den. The reactor would be completely 
submerged in a pool of water laced 
with heat-absorbing boron and would 
cool by natural convection. The reac- 
tor would be virtually invulnerable to a 
catastrophe caused by operator error, 
terrorist attack, or conventional war. 

Even as scientists come up with saf- 
er reactors, they still must solve tee prob- 
lems of storing long-lived radioactive 
waste and decommissioning worn-out 
reactors. To date public outcry has halt- 

ad the es:ab : shment of any long-term 
dump site for nuclear by-products. 

Indeed, widespread fear of nuclear 
power may be the industry's foremost 
roadblock. In two recent polls, more 
than 75 percent of Americans reported 
that they believed nuclear power to be 
important. The same percentage of re- 
spondents, however, rejected or re- 
served judgment on a nuclear plant in 
their own neighborhoods. 

Thomas Murley, director of the NRC's 
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation 
believes time is on nuclear's side. "In 
the beginning, people were afraid of 
electricity' or of riding in a vehicle that 
ran on gasoline," he says. "If we don't 
scare people every five or ten years 
with an accident, then they might be- 
gin to feel that nuclear power really is 
a viable alternative." 

—Steven Scott Smith 



Picture this: The earth's deserts are 
sown with solar collectors, sprouting 
vast fields of photovoltaic cells that con- 
vert sunlight directly into electricity. An 
electric current is then passed through 
pools of water, splitting the H 2 into its 
component gases {one par! oxygen, 
two parts hydrogen), Hydrogen gas is 
captured, stored, and piped to urban 
areas. Boilers burn it to heat homes. Pow- 
er plants use it to fire the generators 
that produce electricity. Filling stations 
pump it into cars, trucks, and buses. Hy- 
drogen, the most abundant element in 
the universe, is harnessed in the ser- 
vice of humankind. And because it re- 
turns to the atmosphere and recom- 
bines with oxygen, all you get when you 
burn it is more water. 

Although solar technologies are not 
ihe only way to electrolyze water and 
produce hydrogen gas, solar-based hy- 
drogen systems offer one of the best 
long-range prospects for hydrogen. 
Joan Ogden of Princeton University's 
Center for Energy and Environmental 
Studies estimates that it would take on- 
ly 24,000 square miles of solar collec- 
tors (about half of one percent of U.S. 
land area) for hydrogen to replace all 
of the oil used in the United States. 

Hydrogen enjoys widespread use in 
industry today, most notably to manufac- 
ture ammonia and process petroleum 
products; and photovoltaic technology 
is familiar to anyone with a solar-pow- 
ered.pockei calculator, But an overhaul 
like the one Oncer: envis ons, -equrirci 
the erection of a whole new energy in- 
frastructure, is decades away. 

Steady advances in solar-cell tech- 
nology may advance the hydrogen age 
in more piecemeal fashion. By the mid- 
Nineties, Solarex, the largest U.S.- 
owned manufacturer of photovoltaic 
cells, will be inexpensively mass-produc- 
ing photovoltaics made of ordinary win- 
dow glass coated with a thin film of sil- 

Perfect Take. 


icon. By the end of this decade, Solarex 
vice president David Carlson believes, 
solar-hydrogen systems will begin to ap- 
pear on a small, independent scale in 
communities isolated from traditional en- 
ergy sources. A village in Africa, for ex- 
ample, could set up a small photovolta- 
ic array, hook it up to a modest-size elec- 
irolyzer, electrolyze the hydrogen on- 
site, and then store or use it for heat 
and car fuel, or run it through fuel cells 
lo generate electricity at night. 

Hydrogen-powered cars, of course, 
require an infrastructure before they be- 
come commonplace. (Hydrogen gas sta- 
tions, for example, must be readily ac- 
cessible.) In the meantime, engineers 
face a big challenge: how to store 
enough hydrogen in a car to give the 
vehicle a reasonable traveling range. 
BMW has developed a car that runs on 
liquid hydrogen and has a range of 190 
to 200 miles. But the system still re- 
quires two to three limes the volume of 
a normal gasoline tank. Liquid hydro- 
gen must also be kept at -423' F, mak- 
ing self-service hydrogen gas pumps im- 
possible, says Chrisfoph Huss, BMW's 
product information manager in North 
America. And because some hydrogen 
may be released when the engine is not 
running, garages would have to sport 
sophisticated ventilation systems. 

Beyond the technical obstacles to 
these solar-hydrogen applications, 

there are the inev table political ones. 
"Solar energy in the Sahara alone can 
supply the world's energy needs," 
Huss says. "But if you use the Sahara 
or the desert in the Arabian states, 
many people will still be afraid of de- 
pending on these countries for energy." 
Considering the Persian Gulf conflict, 
Huss's point is well taken. But with fos- 
sil fuel supplies dwindling, political dis- 
cussions ot the future of clean, limitless 
hydrogen may well be academic, 
— Mary McDonnell 


Deep within the earth, where tectonic 
plates collide, magma boils and sput- 
ters, creating a steamy brew that rep- 
resents a gold mine of untapped pow- 
er: geothermal energy. 

Mexico, New Zealand, and Iceland 
already produce much of their energy 
from geothermal, and scientists say the 
Philippines, Indonesia, and other oil- 
poor developing nations of the Pacific 
Rim, rich in volcanic heat, could easily 
reap this earthly treasure. But geother- 
mal energy also promises to help meet 
America's power needs. 

Current systems, like those lighting 
up much of Scbihen Calrornia, tap in- 
to steam deposits 6,000 feet to 10,000 
feet below the ground to turn turbines 
and generate electricity. Science, how- 
ever, is fine-tuning the process. Acting 

as high-tech divining rods, computers 
pinpoint geothermal hot spots, and a 
new crop of sturdy pipes and materi- 
als defy the corroding heat of the un- 
derground. Scientists at Southeastern 
Massachusetts University, moreover, 
are perfecting systems that test the re- 
sil'cnce of well gear in the lab, a step 
up from costly wait-and-see drilling, 

Researchers are also finding ways to 
trick nature into providing an endless 
supply of steam by making use of hot 
dry rock. To test the technology, U.S. 
Department of Energy (DOE) scientists 
have targeted a site in the mountains 
near New Mexico's Los Alamos Nation- 
al Laboratory where volcanoes rumbled 
hundreds of thousands of years ago. 

To produce steam, scientists drill two 
wells 10,000 to 15,000 feet deep into 
rock and then force water down one 
well to create fractures in the bottoms 
of both wells. The goal: to pump water 
through the latticework of fractures so 
that it emerges from the second well as 
superheated steam. 

Molten rock, however, represents an 
even hotter geothermal prospect. In a 
pilot project in Long Valley, California, 
DOE researchers will drill down 20,000 
feet to just above the chamber of mol- 
ten rock in a dormant volcano, where 
temperatures could reach 1200°C— 
potentially producing enough steam en- 
ergy to power a city of 1 million. 

But you don't have to have a volca- 
no in your backyard to take advantage 
of the earth's changing temperature, 
says Paul Lienau, director of the Ore- 
gon Institute of Technology's Geo- 
Heat Center. Some 110,000 homes and 
businesses nationwide use low-temper- 
ature heat pumps that rely on a network 
of pipes less than ten feet underground. 
The pipes are warmed in winter and 
cooled in summer. Water running 
through the pipes heats or cools the fa- 
cilities. The cost: about $8,000 per unit. 

Within 20 years, says Ted Mock, the 
DOE's director of geothermal research, 
geothermal energy should provide the 
United States with about 5,000 mega- 
watts of electricity (equal to five large 
nuclear plants) with minimal risk to the 
environment and public safety. Call it 
no contest against geothermal's chief 
competitor, natural gas. "If we are re- 
ally serious about our future," says 
Dave Anderson of the National Geother- 
mal Association, "geothermal is 
ready."— Dana Points 


Hikers along "California's Cameron 
Ridge have a choice of spectacular 
views: To the east the Mojave stretch- 
es under a cloud-cluttered sky, To the 
west, on every hilltop, rows of giant pin- 
wheels spin like hurrningbirds in over- 
drive. This is wind power in action. 

Born out of 1980 tax incentives, 
wind farms got off to a stormy start. In 

order to harvest time-limited credits thou- 
sands of faulty machines were rushed 
into action, and millions of dollars were 
sunk into ill-conceived projects. By 
1985 the government had withdrawn in- 
centives and cut research grants by 90 
percent. Observers confidently penned 
obituaries forihe industry. 

Today wind power, among the clean- 
est and most competitive of renewable 
energy sources, is making a brisk come- 
back. "Since 1981 costs have dropped 
from twenty-five cents per kilowatt-hour 
to less than ten cents, and reliability has 
increased from sixty to ninety-five per- 
cent," says Randall Swisher, executive 
director of the Washington-based Amer- 
ican Wind Energy Association. In Cali- 
fornia, Pacific Gas and Electric the 
state's largest utility, will purchase 
most of the 2,5 billion kilowatt-hours 
that state wind farms are expected to 
produce this year. 

For the handful of wind entrepreneurs 
who prevailed, the Eighties proved to 
be a time of trial and error. For exam- 
ple, once planners learned that the e 
ergy output of two machines just 100 
feet apart could vary by as much as 20 
percent, they began "siting" the place- 
ment of every windmil. they installed, rath- 
er than grouping them. Moreover, farm 
operators now wash their equipment 
once or twice a month' to clean away 
grime, which can reduce a turbine's ef- 
ficiency by 30 percent. 

The industry plans greater technolog- 
ical fixes in the future, In- one promis- 
ing cooperative effort, the Electric Pow- 
er Research Institute, Pacific Gas and 
Electric, and wind turbine manufactur- 
er U.S. Windpower are testing proto- 
types of a 300-kilowatt wind turbine 
that will spin at the speed of the wind, 
rather than at the fixed speed of stan- 
dard turbines, increasing wind capture 
by as much as 10 percent. Other 
groups aim to improve windmill efficien- 
cy through better blade design. 

Other things to look for; advanced ma- 
terials that yield lighter, stronger com- 
ponents, extra tall towers, and rotors 
that can bob up and down, in addition 
to moving east and west in pursuit of 
the wind. These improvements should 
reduce the costs of wind electricity to 
about five cents per kilowatt-hour by the 
rnid-Mineties. According to DOE esti- 
mates, costs should drop even more in 
the next 20 years. 

Even so, while the technical prob- 
lems are solvable, wind power could 
use a little help from Uncle Sam, says 
Robert Jans, an energy consultant in By- 
ron, California. Government funding for 
the development of wind turbine tech- 
nology in Europe is currently estimated 
to exceed U.S. federal support ten 
times. "Unlike us," Jans says, "they 
have decided that the environmental 
and social costs of not doing this are 
much too high." — Beth LivermoreDQ ■ 




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oped the evoked potential method. 
This resembles the EEG and lets you 
record the surface of the brain. From 
'35 to '60 we learned a great deal 
about the mapping of the external 
world in the brain — the representations 
of the hand, fingers, face, and mouth 
in the sensory cortices; representations 
of loci in the visual field in the visual cor- 
tices; and different frequencies in the 
auditory system. 

Single-neuron analysis is a bad 
name; that's not what the name 
means. A single neuron has no value; 
you lose them every day. You analyze 
neurons one by one to understand the 
population. Important information is em- 
bedded in the population signal. My col- 
league down the hall, Kenneth 
Johnson, has been studying the way in 
which letters are represented in first- 
order [touch] fibers in the hand, and 
then in the postcentral gyrus [primary 
sensory area of the cortex]. If you 
looked at any single fiber, or neuron, 
you'd see no sign of a letter. But if in 
the postcentral gyrus you reconstruct 
the instantaneous activity of the neuron 
population, there's the letter Kstanding 
like a rock! 

Critical information is embedded in 
temporal relations. So we've now adopt- 
ed a multielectrode method that allows 
us to put seven electrodes in. The com- 
plexity of the experiment goes up as the 
power of the number of electrodes. 
Omni: Is this analogous to recording 
one instrument in an ensemble versus 
all the instruments playing together 
as music? 

Mountcastle: You can't derive the orches- 
tral sound by listening to each instru- 
ment separately. Now, we're dealing 
with nothing so complicated as an or- 
chestra. But we know, say, that if you 
train an animal to move his hand in one 
direction and look at the neuronal ac- 
tivity in his motor cortex, you may not 
find a single" neuron that provides a very 
precise signal of which direction he 
should move. But if you compute the vec- 
tor for the population of neurons, bam! 
That's it precisely. 
Omni: How does that work? 
Mountcastle: We have to assume the 
brain has mechanisms for looking at the 
population signal. Until recently, the dom- 
inant idea was that all these signals con- 
verge on a single point — the famous 
"grandmother cell." But there is no 
such thing as a grandmother cell. I like 
to call what's happening "interface trans- 
formations." Now, that phrase covers a 
lot of ignorance. For example, our ani- 
mal discriminates between two frequen- 
cies. If the frequency is higher than a 
base he compares it to, he moves-his 
arm in one direction; if it's lower, he pro- 

90 OMNI 

jects it in the other. Well, look at the in- 
terface problem. Input from the two fre- 
quencies enters here in the sensory 
side, and way off there [in a motor ar- 
ea] he has a decision made: Go A; go 
B. And there's a lifetime of work be- 
tween the two. But that's where the in- 
terest is: the big in-between. 
Omni: So these populations are not nec- 
essarily in a single area? 
Mountcastle: No. They may be distrib- 
uted hierarchically, but that's an over- 
simplification, because these areas are 
all interconnected. The big interfaces 
are probably composed of distributed 
systems with many nodes, all having ac- 
cess to each other. Many nodes lie out- 
side the cortex and so are influenced 
by other systems like those controlling 
motivation, drive, emotional set. A neu- 
ron doesn't get labeled as sensory, mo- 
tor, or association by virtue of any in- 
trinsic property, but by virtue of its ex- 
trinsic connection. It's like society: It's 

iMost thinking 

is central reconstructions. 

You'd need to 

have a terrific brain to 

have isomorphic 

representations all the 

way and store 

memory in isomorphic form. 9 

a matter of whom you know. 

Gian Poggio, down the hall, is study- 
ing depth perception and has discov- 
ered sets of neurons in the visual cor- 
tex that selectively tune to different 
depths around objects you fixate on. 
There are many cues for stereopsis 
[judging depth by comparing images 
from both retinas], but in this cue 
some neurons tune one place when you 
fixate here, and if you stare elsewhere, 
others tune in another place. So no sin- 
gle neuron tells you anything about 
three-D, but the population has within 
it the information for depth discrimina- 
tion. They are tuned in space. 
Omni: In a physics sense, is this anal- 
ysis difficult? 

Mountcastle: Real difficult. But you can 
analyze the frequency components of 
neuronal signals. And these signals are 
in the same neuron set, not different 
ones. So now we're ready to find out 
how he does it. We haven't the slight- 
est idea. One proposition: He remem- 
bers that the second stimulus is com- 
ing up the same set of neurons. There 
must be a "hold operation." If I deliver 

to you two stimuli in sequence and ask 
you whether one is red or blue, you've 
got to hold the first one to compare 
with the second. The monkey's got to 
hold the signal of the frequency of the 
first stimulus and compare it with that 
of the second, reach a decision, and 
push his arm one way or an'other. To dis- 
cover how he does it covers the next 
50 years of neurophysiology. 

Cognitive psychologists distinguish 
between many hold operations: wheth- 
er you hold something briefly in senso- 
ry memory, or whether you form a tem- 
plate in deep memory and pull it up. 
We've never yet seen any sign of a 
hold operation in the primary sensory 
cortex. Now we're going to move deep- 
er into the parietal lobe in bur search. 
Omni: Do all interactions in "the 
mind," then, have this mathematical, 
computational basis? 
Mountcastle: My dear lady, that's how 
we all live our lives! I don't believe 
there is any such thing as "the mind." 
What you call the mind is a very com- 
plex aspect of brain function.! frequent- 
ly use the word -minding as a verb, rath- 
er than "the mind" as a separate enti- 
ty. You are minding all the time inavery 
complex way, so that when you say 
this mechanism of discrimination is em- 
bodied in physical reality, I'd say, "For 
heaven's sake, what else is new? How 
could you imagine it being anything 
else?" And most neuroscientists would 
agree with that. 

One of my dear friends thinks this is 
a put-down for man. I think exactly the 
opposite. If there is no other force, con- 
sider what humans have accom- 
plished—to pull themselves up in a few 
hundred thousand years from an animal 
hunting on the African desert to mod- 
ern culture! It's so fantastic people can 
hardly believe there isn't another force 
in the universe. I think the greatest com- 
pliment to humans is to say we've got- 
ten here on our own. Now, where we've 
gotten may not be ideal. But look at 
what has been accomplished, and in 
terms of evolutionary time, it's occurred 
over a brief moment. 

Mountcastle showed how the body's 
form is represented in maplike config- 
urations in sensory areas of the thala- 
mus, a vital "networking" center and 
great portal to the cortex. Then, explor- 
ing the cortex's somatosensory area, 
the postcentral gyrus, he saw the 
body's cartography there. The sensory 
areas, he demonstrated, are made up 
of maps within maps of the body and 
its parts. These successively refined, 
specialized maps register simultaneous 
and successive signals and so trans- 
form the essentially two-dimensional tis- 
sue of the cortex into the four-dimen- 
sional sensibility we call conscious 

Omni: In the Fifties you mapped the thal- 
amus. Explain that work. 

Mountcastle: Basically, [Harvard physi- 
ologist] 'Elwood Hennernan and I used 
electroanatomy to work out the relation 
between the body form and its repre- 
sentation in the thalamus. That was a 
precursor to studies aimed at a more 
dynamic problem of understanding how 
the brain works. Before, there appeared 
to be just one big map. So the ques- 
tion came up, both for the thalamus and 
the somatosensory cortex: How are the 
different modalities represented? You 
have five fingers. There are maps for 
each in the thalamus and cortex. With- 
in each finger you have two or three 
types ot modalities — touch, tempera- 
ture, and vibration. You have maps for 
these, too. It's mapping within maps 
that accounts for the multimodal, simul- 
taneous representations. Touch, temper- 
ature, and vibration are being intermit- 
tently mapped over and over again 
throughout the topography of the 
postcentral gyrus. This principle holds 
for the visual, auditory cortices, and so 
on. Within the visual cortex alone, cer- 
tain maps deal with color, certain don't. 
Omni: If one is playing the piano, say, 
all these modalities are in operation 

Mountcastle: At a mad rate, and with 
great complication. Mapping of vari- 
ables within larger variables, within larg- 
er variables. . . 

Modern neurophysiology may v/eli 
have begun with his discovery in 1957 
of the columnar structure of the neo- 
cortex. Using electrode stimulation, he 
showed that the cortex of the cat is or- 
ganized not only in horizontal layers but 
also in vertical columns — chains of in- 
terconnected neurons extending the 
thickness of the cortex. Today colum- 
nar organization is presumed a univer- 
sal phenomenon of the mammalian cor- 
tex, a cornerstone in our understand- 
ing of the links between brain architec- 
ture and behavior. 

Omni: Was your discovery in 1957 of 
the columnar structure of the cortex an 
expected finding? 

Mountcastle: I'd no real expectation, but 
it was still a complete surprise. The ex- 
perience of the scientist and artist are 
much more alike than people realize. 
There is no greater joy— particularly 
when you're working up experiments, 
looking at data — than to suddenly see 
something new. For just a few moments 
nobody knows but you. Whether it's im- 
portant, or your colleagues criticize it, 
that's for later. For the moment it's a won- 
derful experience, and I've never 
known anything that quite matched it. 
There's something in science beyond 
making a career, getting a grant, be- 
ing a professor. All those are secondary 
impedimenta. They're not important com- 

pared to the central theme: You have 
an opportunity to discover something 
and you can make a living playing won- 
derful games. If you find a scienlist who 
doesn't have that joy, he is rarely top- 
flight. Look at the people who've accom- 
plished great things in neuroscience: Ev- 
ery one of them has it. 
Omni: How does proprioception work 
in terms of higher cortical control? 
Mountcastle: That you perceive rather 
accurately the position of your limbs, 
their relation to each-other, their move- 
ments through and around your imme- 
diate extrapersonal space, is obvious. 
The question is how. It probably de- 
pends on multiple systems. Clearly, 
nerve fibers in the joints project into the 
cortex. And one certainly can evoke mo- 
tor sensory illusions and unwilled move- 
ments by activating the stretch recep- 
tors of muscles. The arm seems to be 
moving when it's not, or you see it mov- 
ing when you don't think it is. I suspect 
cutaneous skin input is extremely import- 
ant, especially for the hand, where the 
innervation of the joints is also rich. 
Still, your capacity for the detection of 
joint angles is not so good. 

Just where all these sensations are 
put together in the cortex bears on a 
higher aspect of somatic sensibility 
called stereognosis. This relates to how 
you know and recognize a square of a 


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ca'ta'n size in your iitnc without look- 
ing at it. You discriminate shapes beau- 
tifully; with great accuracy you can tell 
a pure sphere from a slightly oblong 
sphere. This probably depends on the 
input both from the skin and deep af- 
ferenis [nerves], which may include the 
joints, and stretch -activated muscles. 
Now, where in the cortex are all these 
inputs brought together to yield an in- 
tegrated percepl of round versus non- 
round? Both Hideo Sakata of Nippon Uni- 
versity in Tokyo and I have surmised 
that this integration of your perception, 
the proprioception of bodily position, de- 
pends on two posterior parietal loops, 
one largely somaesthetic, the other vi- 
sual. Studies are fashioned so thai the 
animal can show you he's executing the 
task. Sakata uses a fancy robot that 
presents the animal with changing 
shapes. The question is, What is the crit- 
ical signal to tell the difference between 
round and egg-shaped? 
Omni: This perceptual activity is all proc- 
essed preconsciously? 
Mountcastle: If the system is damaged, 
you may have to relearn it consciously 
and then push it down into the precon- 
scious. Just like after you learn to play 
tennis you no longer hit the ball by think- 
ing consciously about Ihe stroke. You 
emit the stroke as a whole. My friend 
Jacques Paillard, a great psychologist 
who became a consultant to the 
French basketball team, trained them-to 
emit a shot in imagery before taking it. 
You practice the neurocircuits that will 
execute the task. 

Mountcastle has contributed over- 
whelmingly to understanding how the 
brain processes information the sens- 
es gather — in particular the somatosen- 
sory system, qualities of touch and pres- 
sure, pain, warmth and cold, vibration, 
and kinesthesia, the sense of position 
and movement of the body in space. 
He's studied the precise transmission 
from nerve fibers originating on the 
body's surface to their inputs in the high- 
er brain. The pathway projecting from 
skin, muscles, and joints up through the 
spine, brain stem, and thalamus to the 
cortex he calls the "great autobahn to 
conscious somatic sensation. " 
Omni: You stress the security of the 
"great autobahn," the primary sensory 
system. What is the basis for it? 
Mountcastle: It's so secure that if you're 
recording from a single neuron in Ihe 
ventrobasal complex of the thalamus 
and give a lethal dose of anesthetic at 
the end of the experiment synaptic trans- 
fer persists beyond heartbeat. In other 
systems, like the reticular formation, a 
neuron might receive a few inputs 
from one source, a few from another, 
so that neither Source can dominate 
that cell. That great security in the pri- 
mary sensory system has significanl bi- 
ological impact on adaptation, simple 
things like survival. 



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Suppose you received stimuli in the 
visual system, but the transmission 
through the brain's processing centers 
was less secure. You might get it or 
might not. A monkey sitting in a tree 
with a weak relation between the retina 
and visual cortex won't live long when 
the eagle flies in. You have to get that 
information quickly and react instanta- 
neously to escape. The fact that the ex- 
ternal world is transduced and signaled 
strongly right into the primary sensory 
cortices allows information to be there 
ready for you to act on it. 
Omni: From what you've found in the 
Braille studies, how is the signal trans- 
formed between the fibers innervating 
your fingertip up to the cortex? 
Mountcastle: Kenneth Johnson studied 
one neuron and moved the Braille let- 
ter K across it and was able to con- 
struct it at first-order level, that is, at the 
primary sensory cortex. He found a vir- 
tual isomorphic representation of K. He 
hasn't gone far beyond this, but in the 
next step in the cortex, the representa- 
tion of. K appears to get fuzzy. But this 
fuzziness is really the most interesting 
thing. Johnson thinks, and I agree, it's 
the first sign of code transformation. 
Moreover, if you ask the subject to 
discriminate between K and L, and 
look at the output in the motor corlex, 
you don't see any sign of Kor L. Now, 
if you think about it, you see there isn't 

enough brain available to continue to 
have isomorphic transformations all the 
way through. So there must be some 
code transformation leading to greater 
efficiency. These are nice words cov- 
ering up ignorance. 
Omni: How, then, do you experience K 
so sharply? Where is the illusion built? 
Mountcastle: There's no illusion, Some- 
how you have stored in memory a tem- 
plate of the letter K.' And I bet this tem- 
plate is not isomorphic. I bet you 
match whatever this letter K is with some- 
thing in the cortex. Imagine having to 
store in memory as you would in a fil- 
ing cabinet; there's not enough brain to 
go around. There must be something 
else, but that's a deep mystery now. 
Omni: Why do pain pathways project 
so widely within the brain? 
Mountcastle: Like all of our sensations — 
especially vision, smell, and taste- 
pain includes something more; but 
pain, for most peop'O. always has this 
added aspect of affective [emotional] 
response. The fast pain system is of tre- 
mendous advantage as a survival mech- 
anism. Having a specific pathway, prob- 
ably right into 'the cortex, it allows you 
to localize, quickly identify the pinprick, 
and do something about it. 

A second or so after you prick your 
finger, it really begins to hurt. This slow 
pain, with its powerfully affective com- 
ponent, projects into the central core, 
smack into the limbic system. This is 
where the great variability among peo- 
ple comes in, whether it's due to differ- 
ence in brain connections or life expe- 
rience that's affected those connec- 
tions. Some people withstand pain sto- 
ically or claim it isn't so bad, whereas 
others are absolutely distraught. 

You might react with revulsion to an 
ugly scene, and others might not, or 
with pleasure to a beautiful scene. The 
affective component is attached to all 
our sensations; it's just brought to your 
attention in a more forcible way with 
pain. The evocation of disgust by un- 
pleasant smells, or pleasure by nice 
ones, probably is at least as great on 
the aifective scale as pain. 
Omni: What are the relationships be- 
tween lower and higher, or more com- 
plex, sensory processing operations? 
Mountcastle: Most of us believe that 
when you get away from primary sen- 
sory and motor areas you are dealing 
with nodes and connections. Each of 
the higher areas is widely interconnect- 
ed with other areas of the cortex and 
with subcortical structures — reciprocal 
connections. But there's no reason to 
think a subcortical structure, like the pul- 
vinar [in the thalamus), which is so 
■muph longer in primates, is any "low- 
er" in any hierarchical sense than an- 
other area. 

When you make a lesion, the higher 
you go the less certain you are to com- 
pletely eliminate a function. My col- 

leagues in neurology once showed me 
a middle-aged man who just twenty- 
four hours earlier had had a vascular 
"lesion of the left parietal lobe. He had 
the classical symptoms: "Whose arm is 
this in bed with me?" Although he had 
no motor incapacity or defect in prima- 
ry sensation, he had a major defect in 
his internal construct of his body form. 
Yet a year later it was almost impossi- 
ble to demonstrate that. But if you re- 
moved the primary visual cortex, he'd 
be as blind one year as one day later. 
So there is this striking difference. 
Omni: Are brains plastic? 
Mountcastle: At the microlevel — a 
single cell and the axons that reach 
it — structure can be modified by expe- 
rience. You might improve the func- 
tion of your brain by changing its micro- 
structure in terms of how you train your- 
self. I always go back to athletics. 
Look at the difference between McEn- 
roe (even now) at the net and me. He'd 
been trained since he was two years 
old to do that. Of course he's got pret- 
ty good equipment, in terms of very 
short" reaction time, superb vision. 
Have you ever looked at his eyes 
when he plays? Like he's staring the 
ball down. I'd guess the microstructure 
in his motor system is different from 
what it would have been if he'd not 
played tennis. Other great athletes or 
dancers — all the same way. 



1 Er 




\ Man 




Omni: So if you were to section the 
brain of a great tennis player. . . 
Mountcastle: When Lenin died, the Rus- 
sians thought there might be something 
very exceptional about his brain. They 
brought in Oscar and Cecile Vogt from 
Berlin, the greatest cytoarchitectonicists 
of their time, to examine Lenin's brain. 
Oscar Vogt looked at it and said, "Oh, 
we've got to have some colleagues to 
help with this!" So the Soviets said, 
"Fine, how many?" The Vogts got the 
colleagues in Moscow to build an insti- 
tute. Finally the Soviets asked, "All 
right now, what have you learned 
about Lenin's brain?" And he said, "I 
think the cells in this part are a little bit . 
bigger than elsewhere." The truth is, Len- 
in had a couple of strokes; his brain was 
small and in bad shape. 
Omni: Why are flow fields, the way the 
visual parietal neurons signal the 
sense of the body in the surrounding 
space, so essential for life? 
Mountcastle: I was once riding 
through the forest on a wonderful 
horse, going like hell down a trail. Sud- 
denly I was swept off by a limb that 
struck me on my riding helmet. I know 
that I ducked just enough to avoid de- 
capitation — a wholly preconscious ac- 
tion — because when I went back and 
looked at the limb, it should have hit me 
in the neck. When you let the horse 
have his head through the forest, he nev- 
er hits a tree. There is a preconscious 
processing of these objects coming 
through. When monkeys leap through 
the forest, Ihey don't hit anything. Peo- 
ple who train pilots are very interested 
in flow fields. 

I worked on this visual flow system 
to show an example of a nonisornorph- 
ic representation, a central construction. 
There's no sign of it in the discharge 
from any axons leaving the retina. You 
operate on these flow fields in an extraor- 
dinarily efficient preconscious way 
when you drive a car. You fixate dead 
ahead, and if something happens off to 
the side in that flow field, you turn the 
wheel before any conscious process- 
ing. Your' response can be raised to con- 
sciousness immediately by something 
unusual, such as another car coming 
across the road. Most of our thinking is 
central constructions. You'd have to 
have a terrific brain to have isomorphic 
replications all the way and store mem- 
ory in isomorphic form. 

Driving an automobile involves a 
lucky inner adaptation — a balance in 
the activity of visual neurons in the pa- 
rietal lobe that are involved in flow 
fields. Disturbance of that balance 
causes you to turn the wheel or make 
a sudden lane change. Running veloc- 
ities fit very well with parietal visual neu- 
ronal sensing. I once calculated that the 
neuronal peak velocity is exactly that of 
an Olympic-class sprinter running a ten- 
second hundred-meter. 

98 OMNI 

Omni: Humans must navy boon sprint- 
ing for aeons. 

Mounlcastle: Yes, to get away from 
the lions. 

Omni: What happens during dreaming? 
Mountcastle: There hasn't been much 
recent work on the activity of cortical neu- 
rons in dreaming sleep. There's a pro- 
found inhibition of the peripheral mus- 
culature, with breakthroughs in epilep- 
ticlike discharges, eye movements, and 
dreaming. During dreaming the cells in 
the sensory cortex are disconnected 
from their input. And you have no out- 
put. Early in sleep, you can drive the 
deeper, but not upper, layers of the cor- 
tex [which has six layers]. But you may 
function on layers two and three during 
dreaming, which are reciprocally con- 
nected with other cortical areas. Now, 
consider a situation in which operations 
between these cortical areas go on 
alone, functioning without output! 
We've had tremendous success 

iDown the road, 
animals in perfectly natural 


will be telemetered. Imagine 

observing the 

phases of sleep with 


electrodes in a cortex. 3 

with chronic implantation of electrodes. 
Down the road in brain physiology, an- 
imals in perfectly natural environments 
will be telemetered all the time. Behav- 
ior will be brought under control or not. 
Imagine observing the phases of 
sleep, with large numbers of impianle-d 
electrodes in a cortex. It'll come. It's an 
intriguing problem. I'd love to try it. 
Omni: What else are you working on? 
Mountcastle: Laminar operations. A 
good bit has been learned about differ- 
ent proicctions-.out of the visual cortex, 
but not about the dynamic operations 
between the laminae, the layers of a 
single cortical column. Within this little 
area — a single column — there is a su- 
perimposed multichannel process- 
ing operation. And we haven't the slight- 
est idea what goes on. In fact, nobody 
knows what the cortex does intrinsically 
Things come in and things go out. You 
know .where they come from and 
where they go to. It's possible that at 
least at the basic level, operations in 
one column would not be strikingly 
different in columns in different areas 
ot the cortex. It would be exciiing to 

see how they differ, and disappoint- 
ing to find they don't, although I believe 
they do. 

An aim of the present experiments is 
to study the activity of all the cells in a 
single column simultaneously while the 
animal uses his cortex to do something. 
The postcentral gyrus is'ideally suited 
for this. You can approach this region 
without excessive damage and creep 
into it. Even if we can get only three or 
four electrodes in at, say, three hundred 
microns apart into a region driven by 
the stimuli— the animal making frequen- 
cy discriminations— we'll begin to find 
whether there are differences in activi- 
ties of the various neurons. 
Omni: The brain, you've said, is a Cy- 
clopean eye, and we are prisoners with- 
in it. It's our only window to reality... 
Mountcastle: Yes, and that window is 
very narrow compared to the total num- 
ber of cells in your brain. We're not sim- 
ply photographic plates, reflecting or re- 
cording events in the external world. Par- 
ticularly as we begin to get to more com- 
plex things, each of us sees things 
differently; each of us constructs a 
world of our own. And you do that in 
both space and quality. Are you a cub- 
ist? I'm a closet cubist. 
Omni: I admire the abstract expression- 
ists, Rothko. 

Mountcastle: See, each of us sees dif- 
ferently. As you construct an image 
that's pleasing, I construct another, 
Those constructs are very powerful in 
guiding behavior. 

After our first interview, Mountcastle 
urged me to visit the George Peabody 
Library. "There's a very special room 
there," he said. Later, opening a side 
door in the 1878 building, I was virtual- 
ly propelled inlo a five-tiered atrium of 
cast-iron balustrades rising to a skylight 
61 feet above. More arresting than even 
the ornate ironwork were the rows of col- 
umns soaring iron : Hoor !c ceiling. A nine- 
teenth-century spatial prevision, per- 
haps, of what Mountcastle was to see: 
the dynamic architecture of the cerebral 
cortex.— Kathleen Stein DO 


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"We saw the car." he said. "Ken- 
nedy's car. It turned the corner and 
came down Elm Street, soft edged and 
white like a bridal veil. We couldn't see 
who was in it.-" 

"Maybe somebody," I began, start- 
ed again. "Maybe somebody else bor- 
rowed it for the evening — " 

"I said, 'You see?' and she saw." 

Again, in the background, I heard Na- 
talie speak. "He asked where I'd been. 
I couldn't lie anymore — " 

"Edgar," I said, as she began to 
cough, "who's Natalie talking to?" 

"Natalie?" he said. "Oh. She's talk- 
ing to me." 

"But you're not talking to her—" 

"She's not here," he said, his words 
sounding suddenly as if they issued 
from an unexpectedly abstracted 
mind. "Not as a physical presence. 
This is when she came over the other 
night. I have her on tape." 

"How could I hurt him like this, he 
said — " Natalie's voice recounted. 

"For history," Edgar said. 

"He threw a glass at the wall," I 
heard her say. "It almost hit me in the 

, "It helps," he concluded, and then re- 
turned to his preferred reality. "We ran 
across the knoll hand in hand as it 
passed us, and then we watched it go 
into the underpass and fade away. I 
wanted to make love to her, there on 
the knoll." He began to whisper, as if 
into her ear. "What she saw upset her 
too much, she told me. I understood. 
Bui wouldn't it have been romantic?" 

Natalie called me a week after that, ask- 
ing that I come at once to Edgar's apart- 
ment. Their film was playing when I ar- 
rived; Edgar was watching, hitting 
pause repeatedly, studying the frames 
in normal ratio and then punching en- 
hancement, enlarging areas of each im- 
age until nothing but phosphorescent 
glare filled the screen. Natalie stood be- 
hind him, stroking his shoulders. 

"Look who's here, Edgar," she said. 

"I see him." 

As the climax approached, Edgar 
zapped through the sequence mofe rap- 
idly, stopping at frame 313. Kennedy's 
head flared as brilliantly as a tropical 
sunset; bits of skull flew through the air 
like seaguUs, and he sank into the seat 
as if beneath the waves. 

"Now watch," Edgar said. "I'll show 
you. You'll see." Thumbing the button 
again, he allowed the tape to progress 
until the knoll's trees appeared, casting 
noonday shadows as sharp edged as 
knives. The foliage's blurs could have 
hid a limitless number of snipers, or 
rustlers, or Cuban-gunmen, deep with- 
in the leaves. "He'll wish this footage I 

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was missing. Sure as death in Texas." 

Natalie walked away and sat on the 
couch, covering her face with her 
hands, hearing Edgar laugh. 

"One frame more," he said. The Lin- 
coln disappeared beyond the under- 
pass. Edgar brought up the picture un- 
til the trees appeared only as a 
brownish-gray smear, and whatever lay 
beyond them might, as well have been 
seen through an uncleaned window, or 
from the vantage of sparrows. "There 
he is. A cover story, that's what it was. 
No wonder it was so ridiculous, This is 
so simple once you know what you're 
looking for." 

"Who do you see, Edgar?" I asked, ■ 
wondered why I asked. 

"Lawrence," he said, the screen's 
cathode glow lighting his smile, bright- 
ening his eyes, shooting rays through 
his face. "The second gunman. He 
knows I know. I know he knows. We've 
always known." 

Second gunman, third, fourth, or 
fifth; who can say? Natalie began to cry. 
Edgar drew on his cigarette; smoke 
blurred his edges, fogged his words. 
"No wonder he never liked me," he 
said. "No wonder." 

Some wonder for too long why history 
happens as it does, why the past un- 
spooled as it did, and thereby assure 
that in remembering too well what has 
been, the condemnation unto perpetu- 
al repetition is carried out; others gaze 
too deeply into the face of other enig- 
mas, ones ultimately greater and no 
less' likely to elude conclusions by 
which one can live, or even sleep: why 
love lingers where it shouldn't, or why 
it runs when it should stay. In gather- 
ing a harvest of scattered facts, the reap- 
-er must; remember that, once planted, 
seeds shall grow as they will, and one 
must make do with the crop resulting. 

Their project won some award; nei- 
ther attended the ceremony. Edgar 
went away for a while and then returned 
to his work, his art improved if not his 
life. I didn't know what happened to Na- 
talie; a year later I ran into her at the 
Whitney, in the video galleries. She was 
alone, and we went to the museum's res- 
taurant and talked over a doubtful 
lunch. "I didn't know how to help him 
anymore," she said. "That's why I called 
you that night, so you could come over. 
You were always so nice to me." 

"Why shouldn't I have been?" 

She prodded the food on her plate 
with the tip of her knife. "Everyone 
has their reasons," she said. "How's he 

"No worse than ever," I said. "He's 

"That's good," she said. "I never want- 
ed to hurt him." 

"How's your husband?" 

"We separated. My friends say it's as 
well, relationships with academics are 


rarely healthy. I was thinking about 
them only this morning. Lawrence and 
I had a past, certainly, but Edgar and 
I could have had a future, if we'd have 
only let it happen. I never wanted to 
hurt anybody." 

For whatever reason, I found myself 
asking one more question. "What was 
your theory?" 

"About what?" 


"It matters?" she asked. "Once I be- 
lieved a husband's obsessions should 
be the wife's as well for a marriage to 
work. After I saw I was wrong, I 
stopped thinking about it, and when he 
started teaching he never talked about 
the assassination at home anymore, I 
was as glad he didn't. 

"Then Edgar and I started working on 
the project. He seemed so interested, 
and I knew I was. It should have 
worked, perhaps. Still, we thought we 
had something in common, and it 
wasn't something of ours." She finished 
her drink. "Edgar had the better theo- 
ry, but in practice" — Natalie gave me a 
wink without a smile, knowing as I 
knew how, through a complicity so de- 
liberate as theirs, I'd allowed myself to 
become as tangled up in secrecy, avoid- 
ing truth perceived, however rightly, 
as being too hurtful to tell to those 
most harmed by its absence — "well. 
You know." 

To conclude my story of Edgar and 
Natalie by saying that one wound up 
kissing the other's casket would be ro- 
mantic, perhaps? but there were no 
rites of state, no unending lines of mourn- 
ers, no accompanied procession into glo- 
ry. Natalie went her way, Lawrence 
went his; Edgar continued to toss him- 
self onto his eternal pyre. Sometimes he 
called and told me of his newest girl- 
friend. "It's different this time," he said, 
and said, and said again. 

Some autumn nights in Dallas, a ghost 
Lincoln swings slowly onto Elm Street. 
Those at rest in Dealey Plaza, atop the 
grassy knoll or on the pergola where 
Abraham Zapruder stood to shoot, 
awake from their nightmares, glimpsing 
the vision passing through the mist. 
Three figures are in the car, two men 
and a. woman inextricably involved. 
Their heartbeats sound as drums. One 
man has no idea what is happening, 
but is sure he's all right. The woman, 
seeing what is happening, stares at the 
other man, the one sitting beside her, 
and wishes she could reverse time and 
save what had been. The man beside 
her understands what is happening. 
He's read the books on ritual and ro- 
mance; he's foreseen the conclusion. 
This still seems different from what he 
always imagined. He slumps, as if hop- 
ing that the woman will comfort him. 
When she reaches over to touch his 
head: it isn't there anymore. DO 


r: 01- IT I w.ED tpcm -v.yi i: 

they pump water into this brew and 
pump thinner oil out. Oil deposits tend 
to lie deeper than ground water, so 
there's seldom worry about injectants 
becoming pollutants. I mean, is anyone 
worried about polluting the crude oil? 

Then there's the $2 million Anadarko 
project in Liberal, Kansas, the center of 
the dust bowl in the Dirty Thirties. With 
not enough salt water or natural gas in 
the deposit for normal injection, and wa- 
ter scarce enough that Kansas law pro- 
hibits oilmen from drilling into the aq- 
uifer for injection water, Anadarko engi- 
neers looked at Liberal's huge waste- 
water evaporation lakes, paused, and 
took a deep breath. 

After negotiating with the city's sani- 
tation department to buy that which 
most cities would pay to get rid of, Ana- 
darko engineers built a purification 
plant next to the sewage treatment 
plant. Filtering the water to remove mi- 
nute particles, which could corrode 
pipes and plug the oil deposit, the 
plant pumps the water 12 miles north 
into injection wells, flushing fresh 
crude oil to the surface. 

After showing off the plant's filtration 
tanks, which brim with beads made 
from plastic milk cartons, plant operator 
Bill Glick says, over the din of high- 
speed pumps, "One state official said 
our water was cleaner than Liberal's 
drinking water." (With a hint in the air 
of the sewage treatment plant next 
door, no one, however, looks willing to 
try a glass.) Rinehart adds, "And who's 
to say that, to get our drinking water, 
one day it won't come to this?" 

After all, to get oil, it already has. 

Yet secondary oil recovery — bringing 
oil to the wells instead of wells to oil — 
remains preferable to more explorato- 
ry drilling in new wilderness campaigns. 
Okay, we're not. at the point where, like 
the Road Warrior, we sop up gas with 
a handkerchief after a car crash. Oil, 
however, is a nonrenewable resource: 
We'll be sopping it sooner or later. "The 
more lime we waste going into places 
like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 
the" more time we waste developing 
alternatives," says the NRDC's Watson. 
"We should drill lor oil in Detroit," by forc- 
ing automakers to raise fuel consump- 
tion standards to 60 miles per gallon by 
2010. But the thought of society running 
out of gas in 2066 may be a worry too 
far down the road. 

"Oil will not disappear overnight," 
says Earl Ross, a spokesman for the 
American Petroleum Institute. "It will con- 
tinue to be our primary energy source 
for some time to come, and more oil is 
going to be discovered in the future. 
That's not saying it's going to be 
cheap oil, but we'll find it." DO 



Helmet crushers and monster 

bashers need brains as well as brawn 

The gridiron has cooled and the pigskin is packed away 
for another year. Yet, just before; the clock ran out on last 
season, a hard-driving video football game .appeared to 
keep the mud-and-guts spirit alive- until next fall. There 
were some fullback competitors in our recent look atelec- 
tronic football but none as big or as fast as Electronic 
Arts' new John Madden Football, which may be the best 
reason yet to own a Sega Genesis. 

Football is a tough game on the field, even tougher on 
the small screen. It's nearly impossible to cram 22-man 
■action, variable weather and field conditions, a complete 
playb'ook, and an entire-professional league into a game 
cartridge. And forget authenticity. Even carts that score 
big on action tend, to have strategy simulation that's 
about as believable as Howard Cosell's hair. 

But from the moment the ofiicial charges onto the field 
to spot the ball it's clear that Madden Football is differ- 
ent.. An incredible 3-D Skycam view sweeps across the 
video screen. You'll reset the game just to double-check 
your eyesight on this one. 

Once the game begins you'll find the most full-bodied, 
yet accessible, football simulation ever created: 17 
teams with individual player stats; regular season and play- 
off competition; one- or two-player head-to-head action; 
a wide choice of sets and formations; and a full book of 
offensive and defensive plays. 

On the scrimmage lineof arcade action, Madden Foot- 
ball tackles the competition with fast animation and blaz- 
ing controller response. And while passing is the down- 
fall of many football .games, Madden Football ingenious- 
ly solves the problem of completing pass plays. with a mul- 
tiple screen display. 

Fingers not as athletic as they once were? Don't let 
that keep you in the- locker room. You can aJso play Mad- 
den Football as a game of pure- strategy and tactics. Vou 
pick sets, formations, and. plays; Genesis runs them. 

KICKING ALIENS. When you're ready. to throw long 
bombs of another kind, rev up the ignition on Electronic 
Arts' Battle Squadron, a graphicafly sizzling fly-and- 
shoot classic. The best computer arcade game of 1989, 
Battle Squadron now lights up the Sega Genesis in a ter- 
rific new version with the same slimy monsters, weird land- 
scapes, and a hot musical score that backbeats you into 
a frenzy. A two-player cooperative option offers a rare 
chance for video addicts to develop their social skills. 
Look for cheap and overwhelming thrills, not strategic sub- 
tlety in this top-to-bottom scrolling shooter. Just leave 
your brain in the airlock and start firing. 

FIENDISH TOYS. A kidnapped heroine terrorized by evil 
dolls isn't a very convincing setup, but HudsonSoft's Men- 
del Palace (for the Nintendo Entertainment System) is an 
ingenious animated board game and puzzle that could 
be realized only On a video game system. Your charac- 
ter struts- across a grid of cartoon panels, alternately chas- 
ing and evading teams of killer toys. By flipping the pan- 
els you can crush the playtime nasties against the wajls. 
Flipping panels- can also reveal a variety of toy-busting 
secret weapons'. Fleeing from persistent pursuers can de- 
mand a bit of power pad technique,, but Mendel Palace 
is primarily a challenge of logic and strategy with eight 
levels of dozens of different grid- designs. 

LINKING UP WITH LYNX, A bundle of great new prod- 
ucts continue to appear for Atari's color portable Lynx 
game system. Rampage uses a scrolling landscape and 
monstrous sound effects to recapture the destructive ex- 
citement of the arcade hit in which you are a giant crea- 
ture running amok on a city-leveling spree. In Za'rlor Mer- 
cenary, a graphic tour de force in'-a four-way scrolling 
shdot-'em-up, the action soars with, true -arcade-quality 
audiovisual. Also, muit.rjle hie layouts and other enhance- 
ments in the Lynx version of Shanghai improve the com- 
puter-based original's payability.— Bob LindstromOQ 



The dictionary won't provide much help with 

these bits and pieces of language 

Recreational Linguistics of- 
fers readers. an array of word- 
plays. Take, for example, 
these anagrams: The letters 
in President Ronald Reagan 
can be rearranged to read, 
planned- Irangate orders, 
George Herbert Walker- 
Bush becomes huge, ber- 
serk rebel warthog. The jour- 
nal also recently published a 
timely palindrome: Drat! Sad- 
darn a mad dastard The 
best wordplays, however, 
come "from its readers. The 
dictionary defines cabaret ■ 
as "a restaurant. serving li- 
quor and providing entertain- 
ment." Shift the letter clothe 
end, Eric Albert found, and. 
the word becomes its- own 
definition: "a bar, etc." 

Philip Cohen submitted a 
collection of rumors that cir- 
culated around an IBM con- 
ference. Take, for example, 
the one about a rumored 
merger between the 
Fairchild and Honeywell com- 
panies: The deal fell through 
because company execu- 
tives feared somebody 
■would nickname the new 
company Farewell Honey- 
child. The merger of Stop & 
Shop with A &P failed for a. 
similar reason. 

Readers have also fo- 
cused on the 50 state postal 
abbreviations. The word 
America, for example, con- 
tains three of them: ME, Rl, 

land, and California — con- 
tains three other abbrevia- 
tions. Can you find them? 
And reader Dave Morice ar- 
ranged state abbreviations 
to form vertical word pairs 
(above). But .he was able to 
include only 42 states. Can 
anyone use the other eight? 


Chris Cole contributed a list 
of record-holding English 
words, using Webster's 
Third New international Dic- 
tionary as his source. The 
quiz here presents 25 of the 
longest and shortest medal- 
ists, each with a parentheti- 
cal hint. For example, lion- 
supports (letter choice) 
would tell you that the letters 
used in the word make it a 
record holder. (It happens to 
be the longest word com- 
posed of letters from the sec- 
ond half of the alphabet.) -- 
What is the record held by- 
each of the following words 
or word pairs? 

1 . ABSTEMIOUSLY (tetter or- 


3. APERS (transformation) 

4. BROUGHAM (pronuncia- 

5. CABBAGED (music) 

6. CACOGALACTIA (letter 

7. CHAROTE (typewriter) 

8. CHECKBOOK (letter 



(letter count) 


1 2. HOMOTAXY (letter type) 

13. KINNIKINNiK (letter pat- 

14. LATCHSTRINGS(two rec- 

15. LILLYPILLY (tetter ap- 

ter appearance) 

17. OXYOPIA (pronuncia- 

18. POLYPHONY (typewrit- 

19. PROPRIETORY (typewrit- 


21 . SEQUOIA (letter choice) 

ter choice) 

23. SPOON-FEED (letter or- 

24. SQUIRRELED (pronunci- 

25. UNDERSTUDY (letter or- 


1 . Longest word with all vow- 
els in order 

2. Longest words using the. 
Same numbers on a tele- 
phone keypad 

■3. More words (12 in all) .can- 
be made from these letters 
than from any other five- 

letter set: apers, apres, as- 
per, pares, parse, pears, 
prase, presa, rapes-, reaps, 
spare, spear 

4. Longest string of silent let- 
ters ( ugh a) 

5. Longest word composed 
of musical- notes ■ 

6. Longest word using state 
abbreviations (CA, CO, GA, 

7. Longest word typed in re- 
verse order on a typewriter, 
from the bottom row io the 
top row 

8. Longest word with horizon- 
tally symmetrical tetters 

9. I ongest word formed 
from chemical symbols 

10. Longest word with no re- 
peated letters' 

11. Shortest seven-syllable 

12. Longest word with verti- . 
cally- symmetrical letters 

13. Longest palindrome 

14. Longest word with only 
two vowels; and longest 
string of consecutive. conso- 
nants in one. word 

15. Longest word from "tall" 
lowercase letters 

16. Longest word from 
"short" lowercase letters 
■17. Shortest five-syllable 

18: Longest word typed with 
the right hand only 

19. Longest. word from a type- 
writer's top row of letters 

20. Longest-word in which 
each letter appears twice 

21. Shortest word- using all 
five vowels 

22. Longest word using all 
five vowels, reverse order 

23. Longest word with letters 
in reverse alphabetical order 

24. Longest one-syllable 

25. Longest string of letters 
in alphabetical order (rstu) 

—Scot Morris DQ 




Trading cards depict- 
ing the space 
program's history. 
Bubble gum not in- 
cluded. Cost: $ 19.SO 
for 110 cards. Con- 
tact: Space Ventures, 
Dallas, TX; 
(800) 748-S8S3. 

■■■■■■ ' 'V 

Love to swim but 
don't have room for 
a pool? The 12- by 
6-foot SwImEx lap 
pool can be in- 
stalled indoors and 
lets you do laps at 
your own pace— all 
year long. Cost: 
$23,475. Contact: 
SwimEx Systems, 
Warren, Rl; 


The E.S.T. mountain 
bike, complete 
with oil-filled shock 
absorber, takes 
the bumps and both- 
er out of riding 
rugged, rutted 
trails. Cost: 
$1,760. Contact: 
Georgetown, CT; 


The Seoul Sidefinder 
tracks furtive fish 
and tells you where 
they are. Unlike 
other fish finders, 
this one's sideways 

detect fish near the 
surface. Cost: $200. 
Contact: Bottom 
Meridian, ID; 


The MuHIn safely 
stores compact 
discs and uses 80 per- 
cent less plastic 
than conventional CD 
jewel boxes. Cost: 
ten for $4.95. 
Contact: DiscHolel, 
Boise, ID; 


The Monte robot kit 
the basic principles 
of rebetlcs. The 
robot changes 
direction when it hits 
a surface or hears 
a sound. Cost: 
$41 .05. Contact: 
OWI, Compton, CA; 



The Committee to Pave the Earth stands ready 

to tackle the energy crisis 

Darryl Henriques 
uses stand- 
up comedy to 

In my role as third vice president 
for the Committee to Pave the 
Earth, not a day goes by with- 
out a million phone calls from con- 
cerned citizens yearning to dec- 
orate their communities in asphalt 
and cement. I assure them that no 
matter how small their town, giant 
paving machines will eventually 
transform their home into a min- 
iature Times Square. 

The idea of so many twinkling 
lights often raises the question of 
energy use. To help the public un- 
derstand their responsibilities on 
this score, I've prepared the fol- 
lowing energy primer. 


Every 3 million years Americans 
buy enough light bulbs to cover 
the land surface of the earth. 
(How to attach them to sheer 
cliffs and steep mountain slopes 
remains a problem.) Indeed, ev- 
er since Thomas Edison and Jo- 
seph Swan invented the incandes- 
cent bulb in 1879, Americans 
have had an ongoing love affair 
with light. It was in Edison's labo- 
ratory that popular phrases such 
as "a thousand points of light" 
were born. 

Even though fluorescent 
lamps produce several times 
more light than incandescent 
bulbs, they only create one 
fourth as much heat. With "; 
thousand points of light" 
(incandescent, of course) 
in your house, you will be 
able to throw away your fur- 
nace. In order to cool your 
home, all you'll have to do is 
turn out the lights. 

Incandescent lights utilize er 
ergy at a faster rate, helping to 
drain the world's supply of oil. 
When all the oil is gone, we can 
switch to clean nuclear energy 
and cheap coal power. Then we 
can kiss OPEC good-bye, raise 
the price of uranium, and recov- 
er all our money from the for- 
eign countries that have 
caused us so much grief, 

Little-known fact: Fluorescent 
lamps were developed by the hat 
industry as electronic balding de- 
vices. Hatmakers, befuddled by 
exposure to mercury, were con- 
vinced that bald men would buy 
more hats. Of course, they had no 
way to anticipate Yul Brynner. 

To beat the high cost of light: 
•Go to bed when it gets dark. 
•If you have to stay up after dark, 
take your paperback novel or por- 
table TV to an all-night market. 
•Work nights and let your employ- 
er pay for lighting. 
•Live above the Arctic Circle and 
enjoy 24 hours of daylight every 
summer. Then drive down to Ant- 

arcti cafor the winter. 

One of the cheapest and most ef- 
ficient sources of heat is good old 
body heat. If your house is cold, 
then it's obvious that there are not 
enough people in it. To heat a 
house with body heat the Presi- 
dent's Council of Home Body Heat- 

ers suggests ten adults for every 
200 square feet. 

Failing this approach, you can: 
■Turn down your heat 1 ° a week. 
In a year, the temperature in your 
home will be a comfortable 20° 
and you will no longer need a 
•Join a local chapter of the Polar 

Bear Club. 


Every 32 years the United States 
dumps enough oil into the sea to 
cover every ocean on the face of 
the earth. Obviously, we need to 
discover more oceans to maintain 
our way of life. 

Oil is proof that not all addic- 
tive substances are necessarily 
bad. It enabled us to create such 
wonders as the minimart, the drive- 
in church, and that great Ameri- 
can sport, cruising. 

Oil is the most addictive sub- 
stance the world has ever 
known. Let's face it, lots of peo- 
ple quit smoking but only the 
dead stop using oil. Gasoline is 
the main source of speed for 
most Americans. It makes Ameri- 
ca what it is today. 

What should you do? 
•Use oil and oil-related products 
as fast as you can, The faster you 
use oil, the less chance there is 
to spill it. 

•Get immunized against the oil- 
eating bacteria that are being de- 
veloped to devour oil spills — 
once those bacteria finish eating 
all the oil, they're going to be aw- 
fully hungry. 

•Make a bumper sticker that 
reads, WHEN oil is outlawed, oil 

•And remember, oil is an essen- 
tial ingredient in asphalt, without 
which man cannot hope to pave 
the earth. Dd 

Excerpted from 50 Simple Things You 
Can Do to Pave the Earth by Darryl Hen- 
riques, published by Ulysses Press, 
Berkeley, California. Copyright 1990.